ollowing up on two separate projects whose feasibility studies were announced just over a year earlier, South Africa-based energy and chemicals company Sasol announced in early December it will combine them into one complex. The firm has begun front-end engineering and design for an integrated, 96,000-bbl/day gas-to-liquids (GTL) facility and a world-scale ethane cracker with downstream derivatives that will be sited at Sasol’s Lake Charles site in southwest Louisiana.
Though its statement cautioned that a final investment decision would still need to be made at a later juncture, the firm plans to invest between $16 billion and $21 billion (up to $14 billion on the GTL facility alone) and create 1,253 direct jobs paying an average salary, at full employment, of nearly $88,000, plus benefits, and resulting in an additional 5,886 new indirect jobs, for a total of more than 7,000 direct and indirect jobs. Sasol also will retain 435 existing direct jobs in Westlake as a result of the project.
Sasol CEO David Constable, said there is significant opportunity to “beneficiate” the abundant gas reserves in the United States by leveraging Sasol’s GTL experience and technology. Sasol’s commercially proven GTL process diversifies the use of natural gas through the production of premium quality liquid fuels and chemicals.
“Sasol is proud to be driving forward with the next phase of the strategic mega-projects that we have announced today,” he said, citing the support of the State of Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal and Calcasieu Parish. “Through our innovative energy and chemicals technologies, we will provide the United States with world-class, cleaner-burning fuel, contribute to the country’s energy security, boost downstream manufacturing capacity, and diversify the utilization of domestic gas resources.”
Sasol expects beneficial operation of the cracker to be achieved during the 2017 calendar year. The first phase of the GTL complex is planned to come into operation in the 2018 calendar year and the second phase the following calendar year. Among the GTL complex’s proposed products are GTL diesel, GTL naphtha, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG); GTL base oils; paraffin; linear alkyl benzene (LAB); and medium and hard wax. As for the cracker, core Sasol ethylene derivatives include ethylene oxide, MEG, Ziegler alcohol, Guerbet alcohol, ethoxylates, a variety of polyethylene products and co-monomers.
“This project will be the largest single manufacturing investment in the history of Louisiana and it also represents one of the largest foreign direct investment manufacturing projects in the history of the entire United States,” said Jindal. “Sasol is one of many energy companies that is expanding in Louisiana because of our world class energy infrastructure, strong business climate, and incomparable work force.”
Global GTL Strategy
Indeed, autumn also brought major oil & gas-related project announcements from Benteler Steel/Tube in October (675 jobs and $900 million at the Port of Caddo-Bossier in northwest Louisiana) and, one week after the Sasol announcement, from UPS Midstream Services, which is adding 95 new jobs with a $3.9-million investment in Jena, in central Louisiana. Those jobs will pay an average salary of more than $73,000, plus benefits.
Louisiana offered Sasol a custom incentive package that includes a performance-based grant of $115 million for land acquisition and infrastructure costs associated with the facility. Sasol also will receive the services of work-force training program LED FastStart, and will qualify for Louisiana’s new Competitive Projects Payroll Incentive (up to 15-percent payroll rebate for each GTL job) and Quality Jobs Program (up to 6-percent payroll rebate for each ethane cracker job). The state will invest $20 million for a new training facility and associated equipment focused on industrial technology at SOWELA Technical Community College in Lake Charles. And both facilities will qualify for the state’s industrial tax exemption program.
The Port of Lake Charles helped to locate the 650-acre (263-hectare) site within the 203-sq.-m. (525-sq.-km.) Lake Charles Harbor & Terminal District. Port officials also provided key assistance in helping Sasol secure options to buy the property that will make the project possible.
On the same day, Sasol also announced it will adopt a phased approach to the next stage of its planned Montney GTL facility in northeastern British Columbia, Canada, with the investment to be phased after the integrated Lake Charles GTL and cracker projects.
A decision to proceed with FEED will be considered at a later stage. Sasol’s portfolio includes existing GTL JV facilities in Qatar and Uzbekistan, with a Nigeria project expected to be complete in 2013.
ccording to the inaugural Metro Magnets Index derived from Pitney Bowes Software, Houston, Atlanta and the Washington, D.C., metropolitan areas are projected to add the most households in absolute terms over the next five years. Houston will add 141,000 new households between 2012 and 2017, with Atlanta adding 106,000 and D.C. adding 84,000.
In relative terms, the major metropolitan areas (defined for these purposes as having an excess of 100,000 households) projected to see the highest percentage growth rate through 2017 are Provo/Orem, Utah; Austin, Texas; and Killeen/Fort Hood, Texas. Of the 384 U.S. metropolitan areas analyzed, just eight are set to see a decrease in the number of households, and only two of them (Detroit and Charleston, W. Va.) are major metro areas.
“Projected household growth is a critical indicator for the economic prospects of a specific geographic area, and this data can help real estate, retail and a range of other businesses plan their growth strategy scientifically,” said John O’Hara, president of Pitney Bowes Software, which worked with PBS data partner The Gadberry Group to crunch the demographic data. “It is no longer acceptable to make strategic business decisions on gut feel alone. Given the plethora of data, and the advanced tools for analyzing it, business leaders can stay ahead of real estate trends for planning.”
Household growth rates are slowing in Texas along with the national projections, yet the state tallies five separate metropolitan areas in the Top 10 for projected percentage increase in the number of households. The Austin, Fort Hood, San Antonio, Houston and McAllen/Mission metropolitan areas all have projected household growth rates above 6.6 percent for the five-year period.
acerich, the California-based owner and master developer of Tysons Corner Center in Virginia, together with Alaska Permanent Fund Corp., announced in early December that Intelsat, the world’s leading provider of satellite services, signed a 15-year agreement and will relocate its U.S. headquarters from Washington, D.C., to Tysons Tower at Tysons Corner Center, located in Fairfax County. Leasing 188,000 sq. ft. (17,465 sq. m.), or 37 percent of the building, with an option to expand to 50 percent, will make Intelsat the marquee anchor lease for the office building, currently under construction.
Tysons Tower (pictured) is part of a 1.4-million-sq.-ft. (130,060-sq.-m.) expansion currently under way at Tysons Corner Center, which includes adding the office building (development managed by Hines); a 17-floor, 300-room Hyatt Regency hotel; a residential tower; and additional retail space to one of the nation’s most popular shopping districts. It is the first commercial hub which will be directly connected via covered walkway to the future Tysons Corner Metro station.
“In selecting a new location for our U.S. headquarters, we sought an environment that reflects the innovative and dynamic nature of our industry,” said Intelsat CEO David McGlade. “Given our highly skilled work force and global presence, our requirements warranted a modern and collaborative workspace with access to well-educated professionals, a first-class transportation system and compelling amenities. Tysons Tower fit that requirement perfectly.”
ris Integration in November announced it would establish its corporate headquarters and a manufacturing center in the Tucson region, and create nearly 600 jobs over the next five years to support its manufacture of sustainable building technologies used in residential and commercial construction. It’s the company’s second manufacturing operation, as its first moves toward operation in Connecticut. Aris plans to locate four more regional manufacturing operations across the U.S. by 2017.
Working with U.K.-based Fusion Building Systems, Aris will make a cost-effective, panelized-wall system that integrates light-gauge-steel structural framing, ultra-lightweight foam insulation and vapor-barrier products and processes with other sustainable materials and energy-efficient design.
As of mid-November, the company was in the final stages of the decision-making process on a physical location of its new facility. It plans to begin manufacturing operations in Tucson during fall 2013, hiring 250 in the near term. The company said it chose the region for its experienced pool of construction tradesmen as well as coordinated public/private support from such organizations as Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities (TREO), Arizona Commerce Authority and Pima County.
“We’re pleased to locate our second manufacturing operation and Aris headquarters here in Arizona, where many on our team call home,” said Duane Armijo, CEO and founder of Aris Integration, LLC. “As a Southwest native, I truly believe the fuel for our nation’s housing recovery will stem from the type of next-generation jobs and innovative technologies that we are bringing to our Tucson facility.”
In addition to manufacturing, the company will also offer design, engineering and construction services for its high performance building systems.
he U.S. Department of Education in late November released data detailing state four-year high school graduation rates in 2010-11 — the first year for which all states used a common, rigorous measure. The graduation rates are preliminary, state-reported data, and the department plans to release final rates in the coming months. Beginning with data for the 2011-12 school year, graduation rates calculated using this new method will become a key element of state accountability systems. Listed to the right are the graduation rates for the top 10 states and ties.