A chemical industry boom continues across south Louisiana. A Bangkok-based company recently announced a $175 million investment to restart a dormant ethane cracking plant near Lake Charles. Indorama Ventures will take advantage of low-cost natural gas extracted from shale formations to boost its production of purified ethylene oxide and other products. Indorama will become the first Thai company to tap into the shale gas trend in the United States.
Here are some more highlights.
Industrial blender takes shape
MOUNT AIRY A $600 million storage complex for liquid petroleum products is under development near the St. John and St. James parish line, courtesy of Pin Oak Terminals. The company, based in LaPlace, is building storage capacity for up to 10 million barrels of liquids, along with railroad loops that will help enable transportation of the products from the 430-acre site by rail, pipeline, barge or truck. The complex will receive, blend and store liquid products and create about 70 jobs in late 2016.
Salt domes prove their worth
PORT BARRE Hazelwood Energy Hub will take advantage of underground salt domes in St. Landry Parish to build a $400 million storage and blending complex that will employ about 125 workers. Incorporating four underground caverns and adding above-ground tanks for up to 13 million barrels of storage, the site will have transportation access via a pipeline network and a barge loading facility that the company will operate at the Port of Krotz Springs on the Atchafalaya River. The Port Barre complex will have capacity to store and blend up to 10 types of crude oil simultaneously for Hazelwood’s customers when it begins operating in 2018.
Drillers don’t give up
CADDO PARISH Low oil prices aside, a petroleum sands formation in north Louisiana holds the promise of near-term opportunities, some industry sources say. The formation known as Cotton Valley, located within an oil field that has produced natural gas for decades, could become a lower-cost source of commodities thanks to simplified horizontal drilling and improved hydraulic fracturing, according to geologists familiar with the area. Cotton Valley is as much as 2,000 feet shallower than the well-known Haynesville Shale field, which has become largely inactive as oil and gas prices have remained depressed. The sands formation of Cotton Valley make it a more attractive play, even with commodity prices well below their historic highs, analysts say.
Research for a stronger coast
BATON ROUGE Construction will begin on a three-story structure along the riverfront to house technical and public policy research related to preservation of Louisiana’s coast. The $22 million Water Institute of the Gulf Research and Conference Center will host conferences focused on coastal issues. Now housed in a downtown building, the institute will move into the new structure when it is complete in 2017, joining two other projects under construction nearby – the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority headquarters and the LSU Center for River Studies. Together they will anchor a 35-acre water campus that also may contain commercial, office and residential space. The new institute headquarters will extend outward over the Mississippi River, providing a public plaza for viewing.
Chemical making continues
LAPLACE Two Japanese firms that acquired a Neoprene business from DuPont will establish a joint corporate headquarters in LaPlace. Denka Performance Elastomer, as the joint firm is known, will retain 235 jobs and create 16 new executive positions at the former DuPont site. Neoprene, invented by DuPont in 1931, is a synthetic rubber used for many chemical and weather-resistant products such as wetsuits and orthopedic braces, along with adhesives, electrical insulation and coatings.
City is game for jobs
NEW ORLEANS Website and video game development projects will bring more jobs to the Crescent City. California-based inXile Entertainment announced it will open a game development studio in New Orleans, marking the company’s first expansion outside of its headquarters in Newport Beach. Specializing in interactive entertainment software for such systems as PlayStation 4, the firm’s designers have launched a host of popular titles.
North Carolina-based website and app developer Smashing Boxes also announced it is expanding to New Orleans. Founder Nick Jordan hatched the expansion idea after visiting the city last spring during Entrepreneurship Week.
Together, the two companies are expected to bring about 140 jobs to New Orleans.