Formosa considers $9.4B complex

Formosa Petrochemical Corp. is studying whether it’s feasible to build a $9.4 billion ethylene production complex in St. James Parish near Gramercy.

The Taiwanese company expects to make the final investment decision by mid-2016. If built, the project on the west bank of the Mississippi River near the Gramercy bridge would create 1,200 jobs with an average salary of $84,500.

The project also would generate 8,000 indirect jobs, according to Louisiana Economic Development.

“Formosa Petrochemical Corp. has been dedicated to the petrochemical industry for decades,” company Chairman Bao-Lang Chen said. “We believe strategic growth in petrochemicals in the future will be in the U.S., especially in Louisiana. It is the right and perfect location for our company’s next development base.”

“This announcement marks the first step in creating a world-class facility right here in Southeast Louisiana,” said Michael Hecht, president and CEO of Greater New Orleans Inc. “The Formosa Petrochemical Corporation is part of a family of companies based in Taiwan, with operations around the globe, and is another example of the world discovering greater New Orleans.”

Formosa Petrochemical, a member of the Formosa Group, would develop the project with an ethane cracker and downstream plants in an initial phase, followed by a doubling of those capacities in the second phase. The facility would convert ethane to ethylene and a number of other derivatives. Ethylene is used in making synthetic fibers, detergents, fragrances, paints, film and packaging, among other things.

Formosa Group has operated in Louisiana since 1981, with three plastics manufacturing locations in East Baton Rouge and Pointe Coupee parishes.

“Formosa’s desire to develop a new world-scale chemical complex in Louisiana excites us on a number of levels,” Gov. Bobby Jindal said.

Wilma Subra, a chemist and adviser to Louisiana Environmental Action Network, was less excited, although she did describe the announcement as “unbelievable.”

“Once again, the community will be negatively impacted in the name of economic development,” Subra said.

St. James is already overburdened with emissions from all the other industrial facilities there, she said.

The state offered an incentive package that includes a $12 million performance-based grant to offset infrastructure costs. Formosa also would receive help through the state’s workforce development program, LED FastStart, and incentives through Louisiana’s Quality Jobs and Industrial Tax Exemption programs.

If Formosa greenlights the project, the company would begin construction on the first phase in 2016 and begin hiring in 2018. The first phase of the project would be completed in 2022, then construction on the second phase would begin.

The proposed Formosa complex would dwarf Yuhuang Chemical’s recently announced $1.85 billion methanol manufacturing complex, which also will be built in St. James Parish on the west bank of the Mississippi. Methanol is a key ingredient in making plastics. The project will create an estimated 400 permanent jobs and 2,365 indirect jobs.

The first phase of the project, an $800 million methanol plant, is expected to begin operating in 2018.

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