Oil companies consider Port Isabel for offshore operations



PORT ISABEL – Three oil companies are considering plans to launch offshore oil drilling operations from the Port Isabel-San Benito Navigation District, Port Director Bob Cornelison said Wednesday.

Cornelison said Hess, Shell and Statoil Hydro need trained workers to launch oil exploration operations from the port.

“They’ve approached the port to provide services to offshore drilling,” he said.

The companies need highly skilled workers to launch drilling, construction and production operations, he said.

“If we can provide the job training, they’ll come,” he said. “Over time, we hope our training facilities here will respond to their needs and do the training required, because those are not the typical Valley jobs.”

Officials at the University of Texas at Brownsville want to train students for such jobs, Cornelison said.

“They’re very interested in the program,” he said.

University officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

“We expect, over time, that we’ll play a role” in the offshore oil industry, Cornelison said.

Officials expect a $30 million international pipe assembly plant will open the region to the offshore oil industry, he said.

Subsea 7, a underwater engineering and construction company, is expected to attract companies that supply the offshore oil industry after it opens on a 58-acre site early this summer, Cornelison said.

“It’s a diversification of the local economy,” he said.

Subsea 7 will hire as many as 90 employees when it opens at the port’s turning basin, Greg Donnelly, the company’s operations manager, said in a written statement.

The plant will weld pipe into 4,000-foot sections to supply offshore oilrigs, he said.

“Many of these jobs are skilled professionals with special expertise in their fields,” Donnelly said.

The company will help revive the local economy after the collapse of the local shrimping industry, Mayor Joe Vega said.

“It’s going to bring in good-paying jobs to the area,” Vega said. “It’s the first time in a long time that we have an industrial company like this come to the area.”

In addition to UTB, the company is working with Texas State Technical College in Harlingen to get skilled workers, Cornelison said.

“They’re very happy with the people who they’ve found in the Valley,” he said. “They found some people who are very trainable.”

Last month, the company interviewed about 25 welding students at a TSTC job fair, Kenny Moore, a welding instructor at the college, said.

“To date, these discussions have focused primarily on welding students and suggest that a promising stream of graduates will continue,” Donnelly said.

The company opens a new market for local welding students, Moore said

“It’s a great opportunity,” Moore said. “They’re looking for welders who can do advanced welding techniques. We have a good pool of talent to pick from. The Valley needs more companies like that coming in.”

The company is hauling 20 truckloads of pipe a day onto the site, where it plans to begin welding in late June or early July, Donnelly said.



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