As the year began, there were more than 5,000 major industrial projects in the U.S. with planned construction starts in 2007, according to Industrial Info Resources of Sugar Land, TX. These projects include new plant start-ups, expansions and maintenance projects and total more than $257.8 billion in planned capital and maintenance expenditures. This is a significant 45% increase from the 4,590 projects totaling $178 billion identified at the beginning of 2006 for construction starts of the same year.

A total of 32 of those projects have a total investment value (TIV) of $1 billion or more. Another 631 were valued at $100 million or greater.

Industrial Info is continually monitoring the status of these projects and is forecasting that about 40-45% of these projects will fall out due to cancellations and postponements as the year progresses.

The Southwest region, which includes Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas, edged out the Great Lakes as the region with the most planned spending for 2007, with $48.8 billion from 875 projects. The Great Lakes is a close second with 936 projects totaling about $46.6 billion.

Energy projects, such as coal-fired gasification and power plant projects, make up the majority of the larger projects in the Southwest region. There are also some large-scale natural gas pipeline, petroleum refining and LNG terminal projects being evaluated. Coal-fired, petroleum refining and metals & minerals projects will dominate project spending in the Great Lakes region in 2007.

Here are summaries of investment plans for various industries and regions:

Metals & minerals:

Companies are developing more than 600 projects scheduled to begin construction during 2007 for the North American Metals & Minerals Industry. These projects amount to more than $24 billion in planned project spending, about on a par with 2006. The U.S. leads with $15.7 billion planned, followed by Canada with $6.8 billion and Mexico with $2 billion.

Chemical processing:

Investments in the Chemical Processing Industry (CPI) along the East Coast, specifically the Mid-Atlantic region, have historically averaged $400 million each year in the recent past. Industrial Info is currently tracking 68 active capital and maintenance projects identified to begin construction in the region next year and the total spending could reach $850 million. The actual number of projects remains mostly unchanged from previous years at around 70 projects, with most of the expected increase in spending represented by at least six projects that are forecast to exceed $50 million each. The majority of this construction activity is proposed to be major unit additions at existing plant sites.

Southwestern pipelines:

Approximately $3.16 billion in planned natural gas pipeline construction projects are slated to begin construction in 2007 in the Southwest market region, which includes the states of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma. The total spending is spread across 46 new projects with an average capital value of $68.7 million per perspective project. The projects are all related to natural gas transmission and include pipeline and compressor stations facilities.

New England:

The New England region is facing 2007 with a huge increase in reported project spending over last year. Every state in the region, which includes Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont, is forecast for new project activity in 2007. A recent analysis of Industrial Info’s Industrial Manufacturing Industry Coverage has revealed a total of 161 currently active capital and MRO (maintenance) projects scheduled to begin in the next 12 months. The cumulative TIV of the 2007 projects is $9.1 billion. This would be a 90% increase over the reported projects scheduled at the beginning of 2006.