Louisiana group plans to build largest methanol plant in North America


South Louisiana Methanol said Thursday it plans to spend more than $1 billion to build what it says is the largest methanol production plant in North America in St. James Parish, La.

The $1.3 billion facility will convert 163,000 million British thermal units of natural gas into 5,000 tpd of methanol.

Methanol is a chemical used in industrial and consumer goods, and is a key ingredient in formaldehyde. In its announcement, South Louisiana Methanol said the plant's output can be distributed as feedstock for Gulf Coast chemical producers or exported to foreign markets.

"The technical and capital efficiencies of our plant in St. James Parish will make us directly competitive with overseas plants," said Barry Williamson, CEO of South Louisiana Methanol.

"The conversion of natural gas to methanol offers natural gas producers an alternative avenue to LNG [liquefied natural gas], enabling the creation of products which are consumed at home on a long-term basis."

The new plant is "emblematic of the reindustrialization of the US based on low-cost energy feedstocks in the form of natural gas," said Simmons & Co. International analyst Bill Herbert. "We'll see more of this going forward in various permutations."

Construction on the plant is slated to begin later this year, with start-up planned for 2016.

South Louisiana Methanol is a joint venture between Zero Emission Energy Plant Ltd., based in Austin, Texas, and its financial backer, the Todd Corp., a private company in New Zealand

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