Site prep begins for largest methanol plant in United States

Aerial view of Natgasoline methanol plant construction site and surrounding area prior to site preparation

After unveiling plans for construc­tion of the largest methanol plant in the United States in November 2013, Nat­gasoline LLC and parent company OCI N.V. report site preparation in Beaumont is underway and on schedule for startup in early 2017.

According to the company, OCI N.V. is a global nitrogen-based fertilizer pro­ducer and engineering and construction contractor based in the Netherlands but operating globally. OCI N.V. reportedly employs more than 75,000 people in 35 countries worldwide.

Natgasoline LLC is a new wholly owned greenfield methanol production complex being developed in Beaumont off Twin City Highway that’s expected to have a capacity of up to 1.75 million metric tons per year, the largest metha­nol production in the U.S. based on nameplate capacity. The plant will take up a portion of a 514-acre plot of land owned by OCI, adjacent to OCI Beau­mont. The plant’s total investment cost is expected to be approximately $ 1 bil­lion, and the project has been awarded a grant of $2.1 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund, as well as incentive commitments from entities including the city of Beaumont, Jefferson Coun­ty, the Beaumont Independent School District, the Port of Beaumont and the Sabine-Neches Navigation District.

OCI estimates that the project will create approximately 3,000 construction jobs over the next three years and has committed to create 240 permanent jobs.

Carl Griffith of consulting firm Griffith Moseley Johnson & Associates, which advises businesses on a variety of issues, advocated for Beaumont as the location of the project in battles over the income-generating opportunity. Pat Avery, vice president of Global Business Development at Griffith Moseley John­son & Associates, worked with Griffith during the competitive process. Accord­ing to her, the EPA approved Natgaso­line’s greenhouse gas permit Sept. 29, 2014, and construction started shortly after on Nov. 1, 2014.

Natgasoline Site Manager Laurens Limpens confirmed that site prepara­tion in ongoing, and said it should be complete in a matter of weeks. He said preparing the site includes working on the soil and maneuvering the earth to get ready to start stockpiling the soil to proper building elevations.

“Stockpiling will start in a few weeks time, I think at the end of April, and that will last until summer,” Limpens said. “Then, we will start with the construc­tion of all the concrete beds and the steel structure. Then, by the end of the year, we will start installing the equipment. Early next year, we will start doing the piping work and all the instruments for the electricity. Our current schedule is we will finish construction early 2017. Then, we need a few months to commission the plan, which is in preparation of the plant before startup. Then, it will start up early Quarter 2 of 2017.

“At this point in time, we are on schedule. Good news about that. Safe­ty-wise we are doing a good job, and we hope to keep it that way. We make a lot of effort to have a safe, accident-free en­vironment.”

Limpens said the site is looking good and, in spite of some weather-related delays, they are back on schedule.

“It’s very impressive,” Limpens said of the construction site and surround­ing land. “It’s a huge area. It’s the largest methanol plant ever built in the United States. The site looks very good.

“Because of a lot of rain, we had some delay in the schedule, but we were able to catch up with no overtime, so that’s very good. It looks very good. All things are in place that need to be in place.”

Limpens said job opportunities would soon be available at the site: “We will start hiring people in due course this year.” 

— Sharon Brooks