Sasol Lake Charles

South Africa-based Sasol, a chemical production business and energy sector company, is wrapping up a near-$13 billion expansion of its Lake Charles operation. 

South Africa-based energy and chemical business Sasol Ltd. said Tuesday that two new specialty alcohol units inside its Lake Charles chemical complex achieved "beneficial" operations last week and puts a multibillion-dollar, seven-unit project close to completion.

The final unit will be a low density polyethylene, or LDPE, plant that is on track for beneficial operations by the end of September, the company said.

At the end of May, the money spent on the project was tracking previous estimates of $12.8 billion, which over the years grew to exceed initial estimates in 2014 of $8.9 billion for its ethane and derivatives project. Sasol also had initially pitched a natural gas-to-liquids plant in Lake Charles that was scrapped.

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Beneficial completion means the alcohol units sustained production at set specifications for 72 hours.

"The additional capacity strengthens Sasol's leadership position in the specialty alcohol and alumina markets, which is core to the company's chemicals growth strategy," said Sasol President and Chief Executive Officer Fleetwood Grobler.

The new units expand Sasol's global alcohols and surfactants portfolio, Grobler said, extending its position in chemicals for laundry, home care, personal care and hygiene products. Additional alumina capacity will enable Sasol to supply the increasing market demand for tailor-made, high purity alumina products used in catalysts, films, ceramics and abrasives, he said.

The one unit in Lake Charles is the largest Guerbet alcohol plant in the world and has a capacity of 30,000 tons per year, the company said. The separate Ziegler unit, an extension of an existing Ziegler plant in Lake Charles, is the largest of its kind in the world, adding capacity of 173,000 tons per year of alcohol and 32,000 tons of alumina, the company said.

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To date, the Lake Charles project has created more than 800 full-time manufacturing jobs, with up to 6,500 people on site during construction, with nearly $4 billion spent on construction to Louisiana businesses and nearly $200 million paid in local and state taxes, the company said.

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