LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Having secured a 25-year operating agreement with the Port of Lake Charles -- the Leucadia Corporation is set to invest $2.5 billion in the nation's first gasification plant.
"This is a huge project. I believe in the state of Louisiana this may be the largest singular capital investment being pushed forth at this time," said Bill Rase, Port of Lake Charles Director.
Rase explained once up and running, the Leucadia plant will use new gasification programs to cleanly produce industrial liquid and gas products from petroleum coke. The plant will also be able to reuse and sell the carbon dioxide used in the process. The impact of the project will double the cargo handled at the port's Bulk Terminal 1 (BT1) to six million tons annually.
"Right now, our BT1 facility is at it's optimum use so it will allow us to expand our business. The bulk business is going to be good for many years to come," Rase said.
In terms of jobs, during the three-year construction phase, it will call upon nearly 1,500 construction jobs. Once complete, there will be 165 permanent jobs at the new plant and an additional 50 jobs at the port.
Leucadia's middle man, Rick Richard, said Lake Charles is the ideal location because the area has all of the ingredients needed for a first class operation of this size.
"We have the infrastructure of pipelines and the import/export facilities and the Port of Lake Charles has done a beautiful job combining a lot of that together and a really fine job in attracting these types of industry," Richard said.
Currently, the Port of Lake Charles ranks 14th in the nation but with Leucadia, the IFG project and Sasol on the horizon don't be surprised if that changes.
"When those all three get up and operational, of course, we expect our numbers to get into the top 10. That would be a major advancement. We have been up to 11 but we have never been in the top 10. So we are hopeful these three projects will pull together and get us there," Rase said.
Work has been underway for a year-and-a-half to drain the property. With the operation agreement now in place, they expect construction to begin in mid 2013.
Press release from Port of Lake Charles:
Lake Charles Clean Energy (LCCE), LLC has announced that it has secured major long-term commercial offtake contracts with BP Products North America Inc., Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. and Denbury Onshore LLC, a subsidiary of Denbury Resources Inc., for the Lake Charles Clean Energy project located at the Port of Lake Charles.
LCCE is a subsidiary of Leucadia Energy, LLC. According to LCCE, securing long-term commercial offtake contracts is a major milestone, as it enhances Leucadia Energy's ability to seek and obtain necessary third-party financing for the project prior to commencing construction.
"This project, employing commercially proven gasification technologies to cleanly manufacture industrial products from petroleum coke, would be the first of its kind in the U.S. LCCE is expected to be one of the world's lowest-cost producers of methanol and hydrogen and a low-cost producer of other products used in the chemical and refining industries. In addition to extraordinary limitations on emissions of Criteria Pollutants, the plant is designed to capture, compress and sell 90 percent of its carbon dioxide ("CO2") production for use in Enhanced Oil Recovery ("EOR") in the US Gulf Coast," a news release from LCCE states.
BP Products North America Inc. will reportedly purchase the majority of the methanol production and Air Products will purchase all of LCCE's hydrogen and argon and also provide the air separation units to supply the required oxygen for the project. Denbury Onshore LLC will purchase all of the captured CO2.
Thomas E. Mara, President of Leucadia Energy (an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Leucadia National Corporation), said: "The commercial offtake contracts with BP and Air Products, together with the existing long-term CO2 contract with Denbury Onshore LLC, are major commercial milestones required to facilitate financing for the project. Having these companies as our customers validates our business model and our vision of bringing a clean fuels facility to Lake Charles. These offtake contracts, along with our success at obtaining all required federal, state, and local permits and approvals, mean the ongoing site work will continue and should facilitate project construction next year. Our current success is a direct result of the ongoing strong support of the Port of Lake Charles, Calcasieu Parish, the Cities of Sulphur and Lake Charles as well as the many local businesses working with LCCE to turn this project into a reality."
The release states that a final investment decision in the project remains subject to third party financing and board approval by Leucadia National Corporation. As part of its financing efforts, Lake Charles Clean Energy has retained Credit Suisse AG and its affiliates, Citigroup and its affiliates, and Jefferies & Company, Inc. and its affiliates to provide advisory services related to potential placement of project equity.
According to the release, the project represents a capital investment of more than $2.5 billion and is expected to provide up to 1,500 construction jobs during the 3-4 year construction period, beginning in 2013. Leucadia Energy will be managing construction of the project. Turner Industries Group, LLC of Baton Rouge, will construct the project, and Kellogg, Brown and Root, ("KBR"), will provide design, engineering and procurement services.
Located on property leased from the Port of Lake Charles, the project site will be adjacent to ship, barge and rail facilities, and the Port will provide logistical services such as storage and loading and unloading of cargoes. LCCE will acquire petcoke from Koch Carbon, LLC, under a long-term feedstock supply and logistics service agreement, which will amount to 7,000 metric tons of petcoke a day from Gulf Coast refiners. Petcoke traditionally has been exported and often burned without controls. Through this process, LCCE would extract the beneficial energy in petcoke while avoiding harmful emissions and producing no waste product.
Officials said that after completion, there will be approximately 165 full-time skilled employees (including contract employees) at the clean fuels plant, with competitive wages and benefits for the technical jobs needed to operate and maintain this first-of-its-kind U.S. clean energy plant.
Operations and management at the plant will reportedly cost approximately $2 billion during its 30-year life. The majority of costs will go to pay local workforces and purchase locally procured materials and services. The project would have a tremendous economic multiplier effect in the surrounding area, through housing demand and services needed for the facility and its employees.
Former United States Senator Bennett Johnston (D-La.), whose Johnston Development Company is a joint venture partner of Lake Charles Clean Energy, said: "Commercial offtake agreements with BP and Air Products demonstrate the strength of the project and the viability of clean energy technologies and investment. Our project is a great demonstration of how government incentives and private enterprise can work together to implement clean energy technologies."
William Rase, Executive Director of the Port of Lake Charles, said: "We are very pleased that Lake Charles Clean Energy has reached this important commercial milestone. We fully support the Lake Charles Clean Energy project, which will be an important part of the future of the Port of Lake Charles. We look forward to working with Leucadia Energy to fully implement this clean energy project."
LCCE was awarded $1.56 billion of Gulf Opportunity Zone ("GO Zone") and Hurricane Ike taxexempt bonds by the Louisiana State Bond Commission. The issuance of these bonds demonstrates the state of Louisiana's strong financial support for the project. The low-cost GO Zone financing provided by the state was a large incentive to develop the project in Lake Charles.
In addition to the state bond financing, the LCCE project is one of three large-scale industrial carbon capture projects that were awarded a Department of Energy ("DOE") grant as part of an effort to capture carbon dioxide from industrial sources for storage or beneficial use. The DOE grant is for approximately $261 million.
As part of the clean fuels aspect of the project, all of the captured CO2, which is expected to equal approximately 4.5 million tons annually, will be sold to Denbury Onshore, LLC for use in its Gulf Coast EOR operations. Denbury currently produces over 35,000 barrels of oil per day from its Gulf Coast CO2 EOR operations and will use the captured CO2 to further increase this production. When used in EOR, CO2 is stored in underground oil producing formations.
Phil Rykhoek, President and CEO of Denbury Resources Inc., commented, "Denbury Onshore and its affiliated companies are pleased to see Lake Charles Clean Energy reach another key milestone in the development of this first-of-its-kind domestic project. The CO2 from the plant would supplement our other Gulf Coast CO2 sources and be used to drive additional growth in our Gulf Coast EOR operations. The captured CO2 would be transported through the 320-mile Green Pipeline, which was built to move CO2 to Gulf Coast oil fields ideally suited for CO2 EOR from natural sources near Jackson, Mississippi and projects like this one. From an environmental standpoint, EOR using man-made CO2 results in a net reduction in carbon emissions as the amount of CO2 captured and stored exceeds the amount of CO2 contained in the oil produced. Also, CO2 EOR allows us to recover oil that would otherwise be stranded in existing domestic oil fields, reducing our country's dependence on foreign oil imports. As a result, when coupled with our EOR operations, this project is a positive for the environment and for domestic energy supply, a true win-win."
In addition, the project has been awarded a $128 million federal investment tax credit under IRS Section 48B, which was a further indication of the support of the Department of Energy for this clean fuels project.