Company proposes LaPlace facility

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An Austin, Texas, clean energy company’s website says it plans to develop a $1 billion methanol plant at the Port of South Louisiana in LaPlace.

Zero Emissions Energy Plants Ltd. said on its website that construction of the facility is set to begin in the third quarter of 2013 and the plant will be operational by the end of 2015.

ZEEP said the facility will produce 5,000 metric tons per day of methanol. Methanol is used as a feedstock to produce plastics, textiles, paint and plywood. ZEEP said the LaPlace facility will take advantage of the price difference between low-cost natural gas in the United States and premium global liquids.

The proposed project surfaced in a study released Tuesday by LSU’s Center for Energy Studies that explored the impact of low natural gas prices on manufacturing in Louisiana. ZEEP was cited as one of many companies that are constructing or propose to build plants that will benefit the state’s economy over the next several years.

ZEEP’s website said its management team has significant experience implementing major energy projects and served as executives with organizations such as TransCanada, Cheniere, Credit Suisse and BNP Paribas.

Ronald E. Oligney, named on the website as one of the founders, has 20 years of experience in the energy and environmental industry and served as an adviser to the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. Barry Williamson, another founder named on the website, is a former member of the Texas Railroad Commission and served as director of the U.S. Mineral Management Service under President George W. Bush.

Despite the backgrounds of ZEEP’s management, information about the company is hard to come by. There’s no contact information on the company website. According to online records with the Texas Secretary of State’s Office, ZEEP’s business address is a private home in suburban Houston.

A woman who answered the phone at Oligney’s home in metro Austin said he was out of the country.

Officials with the Port of South Louisiana referred all comments to Linda Prudhomme, business development director, who was out sick Tuesday.

Torri Buckles, director of economic development for St. John the Baptist Parish, said she was not familiar with ZEEP’s plans to establish a plant in LaPlace. She also referred comments to Prudhomme.

Louisiana’s economic development department did not immediately respond to questions about whether it is working with ZEEP.

This would be the second new methanol plant in south Louisiana recently. In June Methanex Corp. formally announced plans to move an idle methanol facility from Chile to Geismar.

The $550 million project should be completed by the end of 2014 and is expected to create 150 new jobs. Methanex said the project will create 1,500 construction jobs. Methanex said last month it will probably move a second plant from Chile to Geismar.