Our Views: Expanding refinery base

If not yet a sure thing, the potential $2 billion-plus upgrade of Marathon Petroleum’s Garyville refinery is another example of the extraordinary spending on the horizon in Louisiana’s petrochemical complexes along the Mississippi and Calcasieu rivers.

Those two corridors are seeing what cannot be realistically described as anything other than an industrial boom.

Many of the announced projects are in petrochemical manufacturing, using cheaper natural gas brought to market by the fracking boom. Those projects along the river between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, and in the Lake Charles area, are supplemented by billions in spending for terminals to export natural gas to foreign markets.

Yet the Garyville project is an expansion of the existing refinery, not a new line of business. Marathon and Gov. Bobby Jindal announced the project, which could encompass 3,000 construction jobs. The company expects to make a final decision on the project by early 2015.

If all goes well with the Marathon plans, the industrial boom just got a bit bigger. Which is almost a funny thing to say about a multi-billion-dollar expenditure, but it does show just how much is going on up and down the river, and across southern Louisiana these days.