Abundant regional supplies of natural gas helped Louisiana to score another economic development win with the announcement that Methanex Corp. will construct a $550 million methanol plant in the state.

The Canadian company is relocating a facility from Chile to a 225-acre site in Geismar, LA, giving it its first U.S.-based methanol production facility in more than a decade. The plant is expected to employ 130 and create 996 indirect jobs.

“The outlook for low North American natural gas prices makes Louisiana an attractive location in which to produce methanol,” said Methanex CEO Bruce Aitken. “It is also a large methanol-consuming region, possesses world-class infrastructure and skilled workers, and is a positive environment in which to do business.”

Methanex said it is the world’s largest supplier of methanol, which can be found in everything from windshield washer fluid to recyclable plastic bottles, plywood floors, paint, silicone sealants and synthetic fibers. Methanol, a clean-burning alternative fuel, also is increasingly used in the energy sector, including direct gasoline blending, dimethyl ether and biodiesel.

Rising demand for methanol, along with Louisiana’s competitive natural gas prices, positive business climate and chemical industry infrastructure were credited by the governor’s office for attracting the project to Ascension Parish.

“Ultimately, Methanex chose Louisiana because of our world class infrastructure for the chemical and energy industries, and our state’s strong business climate,” said Gov. Bobby Jindal “Methanex’s decision to build in Louisiana is part of the renaissance that our energy and chemical industries are experiencing today.”

Methanex expects to break ground on the project in September. Construction is set for completion in late 2014.

More than 35,000 manufacturing jobs could be created in Louisiana thanks to affordable supplies of natural gas from shale plays, American Chemistry Council (ACC) CEO Cal Dooley said last fall.

“Access to untapped supplies of natural gas is one of the most important domestic energy developments in 50 years. One-third of U.S. natural gas reserves are comprised of shale gas reserves almost impossible to extract just five years ago,” Dooley said while touring Louisiana chemical industry facilities.

“As the second largest chemical-producing state, with 23,000 chemical industry employees, Louisiana is positioned to take advantage of the lower feedstock costs that arise from new supplies of domestic natural gas,” Dooley said. Abundant shale gas supplies could result in $5.4 billion in new investment in Louisiana, including expansion of existing petrochemical plants and restarting idled facilities. In addition to creating 35,000 jobs, these investments would generate $19.2 billion in chemical industry output, $2.3 billion in Louisiana wages and $399 million in state tax revenues, according to ACC statistics.

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