This is Part II of a three-part series. To get started, click here.
The race was on and Sempra Energy was losing.
In the early 2000s, with the United States and Mexico ravenous for natural gas, a coterie of large energy companies competed to build the first liquefied natural gas plant on the west coast of North America in Baja California, Mexico.
By 2003, Sempra, a Fortune 500 company headquartered in San Diego, was neck and neck with Marathon Oil. Marathon was first to secure a key permit from the Mexican government for its project, a plant on the outskirts of Tijuana. Sempra soon got its own permits for a coastal plant about 15 miles north of the port city of Ensenada. Billions of dollars in potential profits hung in the balance.
Then, disaster struck for Marathon. In early 2004, Baja California Gov. Eugenio Elorduy Walther suddenly condemned Marathon’s land, saying the government needed the property to provide housing for low-income families. The next day, Marathon announced its project was dead.
With Elorduy’s decision, Sempra sprinted ahead of the pack. Today, its mammoth $1 billion project is still the only liquefied natural gas plant on the West Coast.