NEW ORLEANS, the United States, Sept. 3 (Xinhua) — Deep into St. James Parish, southern U.S. state of Louisiana, hundreds of construction workers are busy installing chemical equipment.
Among the vast expanse of sugarcane fields, this site is unique both in its appearance and identity.
Yuhuang Chemical Industries Inc. (YCI), a subsidiary of China’s Shandong Yuhuang Chemical, is constructing a 1.85-billion-dollar methanol production facility here along the Mississippi River.
It is by far the largest Chinese investment in Louisiana’s chemical manufacturing industry.
The YCI began to turn dirt on its 1,300-acre site in January 2017, clearing the way for the first of three construction phases of the methanol plant. The project has entered key phase in construction these days.
“We will gradually place in the majority of the large equipment on foundation, stepping toward assembly stage，” Charlie Yao, CEO of YCI Methanol One, was animated when talking about the recent progress of his venture.
The plant has been hailed by many as a sign of strengthening business ties between China and Louisiana.
“Yuhuang’s methanol project proceeded amid difficulties and challenges. It indicates that China and the United States are highly complementary in economic structure and trade,” said Xu Chen, chairman of the China General Chamber of Commerce-USA (CGCC), which represents more than 1,500 Chinese and U.S. companies. “The project also helps facilitate U.S.-China collaboration.”
The plant is expected to generate approximately 2,000 construction jobs at peak and at least 100 direct permanent jobs during operation.
Ron Gros, a Louisiana local, joined Yuhuang’s methanol project early 2017. With rich working experience in U.S. chemical industry, Gros regarded his debut in the fledging Chinese company as “a good opportunity for his career.”
“It’s been a good working experience to come from the start to watch a chemical plant being built from the ground up,” Gros is also confident about his future advancement.
Yuhuang’s location on the riverfront was “strategic” and “mutually beneficial,” according to Yao, as the facility benefits from the availability of natural gas feedstock and associated infrastructure. Meanwhile, its anchoring brings job opportunities and tax revenues to local communities and helps boost the port industry.
The plant is expected to start commercial production in mid-2020, with a productive capacity of approximately 1.7 million metric tons of methanol per year.
Methanol is used in the manufacturing of countless everyday products, including plywood, carpet, fuels and plastics.
The majority of the methanol produced at the site will be transported by barge and rail to north America, while the rest will be exported to China and Europe by oceangoing vessels, according to the company.
Many foreign companies including those from China are looking to long-term investment in Louisiana and that bodes well for the future of people living in the river parishes, said Paul Aucoin, executive director of the Port of South Louisiana.
Foreign direct investment has become an essential part of economic growth in Louisiana, and China is among the fastest-growing sources of foreign investment in the state, according to local economic development authority.