Indorama Lake Charles

Indorama's site director said that the plant has already hit an operating rate of more than 80% as of Feb. 3. The ethane cracker sits nearby Lake Charles. 

An ethane cracker in Calcasieu Parish that had been shut down for nearly two decades was renovated and has been restarted by a publicly traded business in Thailand. 

In 2015, Indorama Ventures Ltd. struck a deal with then-Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration for economic incentives in exchange for a $175 million investment by U.S. subsidiary Indorama Ventures Olefins LLC.

The 250-acre complex near Lake Charles was shut down in 2001 by then-owner Equistar. Indorama bought the plant in 2015. Indorama sought to take advantage of cheap natural gas as a feedstock and power supply coming from the Permian Basin in west Texas.

Indorama already produced ethylene oxide and ethylene glycol in Clear Lake, Texas, and ethylene from the Lake Charles plant is slated to supply the Clear Lake plant, according to the company's website. 

Indorama's site director said the plant has already hit an operating rate of more than 80% as of Feb. 3, according to a news release. 

The company had secured its air permit from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality in 2016. It expected to restart the ethane cracking plant in 2017 but didn't begin the start-up process until 2018. 

In May 2019, the project was considered completed, but the company had issues and with "months of excessive flaring, the unit was shut down in June to resolve its mechanical issues," according to an update by the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance.

The excessive flaring then also caused issues with the Department of Environmental Quality since the company exceeded the emissions it previously had a permit to release. For example, the permit allowed for 6.19 tons of volatile organic compounds to be released each year but the company had released 549 tons more than its permit allowed. 

The company face a potential fine from DEQ, and has requested a hearing on the issue.

In September, Indorama expected to restart operations, but the company wasn't in a rush because the price of ethylene on the market was relatively inexpensive, the business told investors at the time.

The cracker, which can process ethane and propane, is expected to produce 370 metric tons of ethylene and 30,000 metric tons of propylene each year and total ethylene production capacity of 440 kilotons per year.

The company received economic incentives from Louisiana in exchange for restarting the ethane cracker rather than building a new one or renovating an existing ethane cracker in Texas. 

Indorama Ventures was offered a $1.5 million performance-based grant to offset infrastructure costs; workforce training through the state's FastStart program, a tax rebate through the state's quality jobs program; and a 100% property tax abatement for 10 years through the Industrial Tax Exemption Program.

Indorama expected to hire about 125 workers for the plant and support to up 600 construction jobs during its renovation. The company has hired 140 employees, according to its website.

Email Kristen Mosbrucker at kmosbrucker@theadvocate.com.