San Antonio — A 1,000-acre rail yard is in the works just south of San Antonio — part of a South Texas railroad boom that’s followed the surging oil and gas activity in the Eagle Ford Shale region.
Developers on Thursday said that the Mission Rail Park has broken ground and should open by mid-summer.
Plans call for the site, near Elmendorf, to be a center for oil field service companies working in the Eagle Ford, shipping anything from sand for hydraulic fracturing to crude oil.
The Houston-based Frac Resources and La Porte-based Frontier Logistics partnered on the project, with an estimated $12 million to $15 million investment in the first phase of the rail park.
Kyle Kinsel of Frac Resources said the company initially was looking for property for itself.
“It’s too much property for us so we got into the development business,” Kinsel said. “It’s an enormous size for a rail development.”
Frac Resources will likely carve out 50 acres for its own terminal to move 40,000 tons of sand a month. Frontier Logistics, which has expertise in warehousing and moving cargo, will manage the site’s operations.
Kinsel said the target customers include companies that need to move lumber, ethanol, corn syrup or sand — basically any commodity that can move by rail. It also will market to pipeline and storage companies that need to move or store crude oil or natural gas.
Initial construction will allow for the property to handle multiple 100-car unit trains.
Most of the project sits in Wilson County. About 100 acres is in Bexar County. The property has been under contract since last April, and it has taken developers about eight months to line up the needed agreements with Union Pacific.
Terry Warth of CBRE’s San Antonio office, which is marketing the project, said construction will include extending the Union Pacific main line and building a new at-grade crossing over Old Corpus Christi Road.
The property is relatively flat — a rarity in the San Antonio area — so Warth said little excavation is needed. Companies that want to locate there will be able to lease or purchase tracts.
“The critical component is that it’s close to San Antonio,” Warth said. “The manufacturer has a ready workforce in a major metropolitan area. They don’t have to go down south and stay at a motel.”
Bexar County Economic Development Director David Marquez said adding such a large site could help the region attract more oil field service companies or manufacturers that require a large site and rail access. San Antonio currently lacks the rail infrastructure of cities like Houston, which have an enormous industrial base.
“Our rail industry pales by comparison,” Marquez said. “There’s room for growth and need for growth. I think the Eagle Ford has made it economically viable for the kind of project they’re doing.”
All across South Texas, rail yards have been adding track to service the oil and gas industry in the Eagle Ford Shale play.
In Hondo, Hondo Railway LLC has grown from 13,000 feet of track to 80,000 feet, thanks to growth in moving fracking sand and crude oil.
At Port San Antonio’s East Kelly Railport, Watco Cos. recently expanded the tracks from four miles to almost eight miles within the 350-acre site.
In Gardendale, located in LaSalle County about halfway between San Antonio and Laredo, Gardendale Railroad Inc. has grown from 1,600 feet of track to 130,000 feet of track.
Near Harwood in northern Gonzales County, the Texas, Gonzales & Northern Railway Co. started with 12 miles of track and since last June has added 13 more.
Live Oak Railroad aims to open this spring south of Three Rivers in Live Oak County, with 28,000 feet of track along the Union Pacific line. Howard Energy Partners recently announced it would build a logistics railroad hub there on 260 acres.
Express-News archives contributed to this report.