Brazoria County, Texas has recently experienced a rapid increase in its volume of eminent-domain cases. The County has long been considered a “hot spot” of the energy industry. Oil giants such as Conoco Phillips, Kinder Morgan, Gulf South, Enterprise, HSC Pipelines, as well as public utilities like the Brazosport Water Authority, maintain large-scale operations within the County. As energy production and transportation activities are often land intensive, the State government has established mechanisms by which private corporations can use the power of eminent domain to obtain private land.
Typically, natural gas is a by-product of the oil production process. In the past few years, global events in the oil market have resulted in a massive surplus of natural gas. Simultaneously, many of the new eminent-domain acquisitions in Brazoria County have been for the construction of new pipelines. One could speculate that this increase in activity within Brazoria County, especially the construction of pipelines, may be related to the abundance of natural gas.
In addition to pipelines, a new gas liquefaction plant is being developed in Brazoria County. Liquefaction is the process of converting gas that is in its vapor form, into a liquid. The liquid is denser per volume and easier to contain and transport than its gaseous counterpart, making it more profitable for companies. The liquefaction process requires extreme pressure and consumes large quantities of water. Also notable, the city of Freeport is a major export hub of the oil and gas industry within Brazoria County. It remains a mystery as to whom and where the liquid is transported and/or sold. It is only reasonable to attribute these rapid additions to the Brazoria County infrastructure to this new process.
Because this is a revolutionary concept, it is only a matter of time until this Brazoria County based process of gas liquefaction is spread out to the rest of the world. As with Brazoria County, these projects will likely produce an increase of eminent-domain actions against land owners wherever they are being built. Though the process of eminent-domain is never pleasant, landowners should remember that receiving just compensation for their land is a Constitutional right.
Written by James Nguyen.