photo by: Katie Shrieves, La Boca Panama /  The Texas Tribune

Fort Worth Business Press /Austin – A multibillion-dollar expansion of the Panama Canal is expected to open lucrative new Asian markets for natural gas from the Barnett Shale while enhancing Texas’ stature as the nation’s leading export state. The canal was heralded as an engineering marvel after it was carved through the jungles of Panama almost a century ago, providing a 51-mile shortcut between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Now modern-day construction crews are deepening and widening the canal to accommodate mega-ships of the 21st Century. Planners originally hoped to complete the $5.2 billion project in 2014 – the canal’s centennial anniversary – but are now working toward a likely finish date in 2015.

Although the ambitious undertaking deep in the tropics is far below the radar of the average Texan, the project has generated intense interest within a broad sector of groups and individuals who would be affected by the development, including transportation experts, shippers, energy groups and local officials.

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