Construction is brisk in Texas and Louisiana. The region posted big increases for project starts in all sectors, particularly in energy, transportation and water infrastructure. The top 25 projects of 2014 totaled $28.9 billion, more than double the previous year's $12.5 billion.

"The market is robust, and there are a lot of opportunities in all segments, including mixed-use," says Jack Baxley, president and CEO of Dallas-Fort Worth-based TEXO, a commercial trade association of 1,400 general contractors, specialty contractors and suppliers in northern and eastern Texas.

Louisiana firms are also optimistic. "With the proposed industrial expansion and the corresponding vertical and horizontal construction, we're looking at a very good year in 2015 too," says Ken Naquin, chief executive officer for Baton Rouge-based Louisiana AGC, which represents 650 construction companies statewide. "Private building is really going great guns right now."

Energy Projects

The largest regional start in 2014 is the $10-billion Cameron LNG Liquefaction Project (Sempra Liquefied Natural Gas Export Terminal) in Hackberry, La. The plant should be ready for commercial operation in 2018. It is being built by joint venture contractors CB&I and Chiyoda International Corp., both of Houston.

In shale development, the $6-billion Chevron Phillips Chemical Co.'s U.S. Gulf Coast Petrochemicals Project includes a 1.5-million-metric-tons-a-year (3.3 billion lb a year) ethane cracker at the Cedar Bayou facility in Baytown, Texas, and two polyethylene facilities producing 1.1 billion lb of resin annually in Old Ocean, Texas.

Scheduled for completion in 2017, the project will support 400 long-term, direct jobs and 10,000 engineering and construction jobs, says Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. LP, a wholly owned subsidiary of Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. LLC, based in The Woodlands, Texas.

Another energy giant, Houston-based Phillips 66, is building its Sweeny Fractionator One and Freeport Liquefied Petroleum Gas Export Terminal—a combined $3-billion-plus investment. The 100,000-barrel-per-day natural gas liquids (NGL) fractionator is expected to begin operations in the second half of 2015 in Old Ocean, close to the company's Sweeny Refinery. The liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) export terminal at Freeport, Texas, is expected to be operational in the second half of 2016.

Southwest of Houston, the $1-billion Petra Nova facility will be the world's largest post-combustion carbon-dioxide capture system on an existing coal plant when it begins production by the end of 2016. Petra Nova Holdings LLC, a subsidiary of Houston-based NRG Energy, formed a 50-50 joint venture with JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration Corp. in Tokyo.

The facility at the W.A. Parish plant in Fort Bend County will capture approximately 1.6 million tons of CO2 annually from a 240-MW equivalent slipstream of flue gas out of the 610-MW Unit 8.