Largest Methanol Plant In North America Opening In St. James Parish

Jul 18, 2014

Natural gas is abundant and relatively cheap along the Gulf Coast, since it's drilled nearby. It's also the key ingredient in producing methanol.

Methanol is a chemical that is used to make plywood, foam, paints, adhesives and other common household products. South Louisiana Methanol is slated to be the biggest plant to make it. The final hurdle to business was finding a local natural gas provider.

Now, transcontinental Gas Pipeline Company has signed a ten-year agreement to service the methanol plant. The deal is supposed to create 63 jobs, paying an average of around $60,000 a year.

Wilma Subra is the chemist and technical advisor for the Louisiana Environmental Action Network. She says there’s no guarantee that those jobs will go to people living in St. James Parish. And she says with increased chemical emissions, life might get harder for people with homes near the methanol plant.

“Do they have the resources to move, do they have the abilities to sell their homes, so they can move somewhere else?," Subra asks. "Nobody wants to buy a house that’s right next to a big industrial facility. So they get left behind.”

Subra says sometimes companies will buy out homeowners who live too close to polluted areas.

Louisiana is poised to see a natural gas boom in the next few years, as companies look to tap into that natural resource in a variety of ways.

A Chinese-based methanol manufacturer also announced its plans to create a multibillion-dollar factory in St. James Parish this week.