St. James methanol plant gets state permit

South Louisiana Methanol LP has state permission to begin building its $1.3 billion methanol production plant in St. James Parish, company and government officials announced Wednesday.

Barry Williamson, SLM’s chief executive officer, said receipt of the plant’s air permit from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality means the company “is on track to begin construction during the second half of 2014.” Williamson said the plant should begin operations in January 2017.

In a written statement, company officials said the plant will need 85 workers whose annual salaries will average $66,500.

Another 374 indirect jobs should be generated in transport, parts production and auxiliary services, according to the Louisiana Department of Economic Development.

A total 650 construction workers will be needed at the Mississippi River site from this year through early 2017, company officials said.

“We applaud the state for approving the air permit for the SLM plant,” St. James Parish President Timmy Roussel said in the written statement from SLM. “This investment in our parish will bring jobs and income for our communities and generate revenue for local services. It is a win-win for everyone involved.”

SLM officials said last year the St. James site will be North America’s largest methanol production plant. It is expected to convert 163 billion British thermal units of natural gas into 5,000 metric tons of methanol daily.

Methanol is used as feedstock for production of plastics, textiles, paint and plywood.

SLM is jointly owned by Zero Emissions Energy Plants Ltd., of Austin, Texas, and The Todd Corp., of New Zealand.

The SLM site is on the west bank of the Mississippi River, across from a Nucor Corp. direct reduced-iron plant.