From Belle Chasse to Baton Rouge, Louisiana’s great river corridor of industries and shipping continues to generate new jobs and wealth for this country and this state.
In Plaquemines Parish, across the Mississippi River from Belle Chasse, another major methanol manufacturing plant — years in development — received its air quality permit from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality in December.
Castleton Commodities International had announced in October 2014 that it would pursue plans for a $1.2 billion plant on a former AMAX Nickel site, creating 50 jobs and producing 5,000 tons of methanol each day. Methanol is used in a variety of chemical processes, including the production of plastics, polyester and paint, and can be used as a fuel additive.
It is part of the methanol boom in the river’s huge industrial complex. The plant will join three other recent methanol plants in southeast Louisiana. Methanex Corp. operates two plants in Geismar that it disassembled and relocated from Chile and is building a third methanol plant in Ascension Parish just south of Baton Rouge.
The Castleton Commodities International plant initially was projected to start construction in 2016 and wrap up by 2018, supporting an estimated 1,000 construction jobs. The plant had received an air permit in December 2014 but was redesigned and had to get another air permit from the state, records show.
That is not the only good news from petrochemical industries. A massive industrial complex proposed for St. James Parish that would create 1,200 permanent jobs has been granted a series of air permits, state officials said this month.
While the $9.4 billion Formosa Plastics facility still needs other permits, the air permits clear a significant hurdle for the complex proposed on 2,400 acres of farmland and swamp near the Welcome community of northwestern St. James. Construction jobs, thousands of them, are forecast after construction starts.
From a jobs standpoint, this is huge. It eclipses the $2.2 billion expansion that CF Industries completed for its fertilizer complex near Donaldsonville a few years ago. That is why, despite some opposition from environmental groups, Formosa has drawn support from elected officials and business leaders, from the governor on down.
We support growing the state’s industrial base so we are pleased to see these projects coming closer to fruition. But we also support regulatory work like that of DEQ to ensure that the inevitable emissions from such factories are kept to a minimum and constantly assessed to protect nearby residents.
Louisiana is fortunate to have the high-paying jobs and spending created by its industrial facilities. We support, of course, diversifying the economy wherever possible beyond our oil and gas base, but the long-term commitment of petrochemical companies is still a vital part of our state’s economic mix.