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Top Construction Projects: 3. Yuhuang Chemical methanol plant.

Byline: Tommy Santora, Contributing Writer

Project description: A world scale Mega Methanol production facility on 1,300 acres along the west side of the Mississippi River in St. James Parish

Project cost: $1.85 billion

Start date: Spring 2017

Expected completion date: Mechanical completion by the third quarter of 2020, with first shipment from YCI Methanol One by the fourth quarter of 2020

Owner/developer: YCI Methanol One LLC

Construction team: Air Liquide Global E&C Solutions; Wood Group, with a number of other local and area contractors

YCI Methanol One LLC, a venture company between Yuhuang Chemical Industries Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Shandong Yuhuang Chemical Co. Ltd and Koch Methanol Investments LLC, is building a $1.85 billion methanol production facility on 1,300 acres along the west side of the Mississippi River near River Road in St. James Parish.

The plant facility, to be wholly constructed in three phases, is expected to start commercial production in late 2020, following the completion of the first-phase YCI Methanol One plant.

"The engineering efforts are about 100 percent complete; procurement at 95 percent; 90-plus percent of the equipment has arrived on site, with everything ordered and manufactured. We are now moving rapidly with construction work," said Jerry Oliver, vice president of business operations for YCI. "All the equipment is on site to facilitate moving this world class methanol facility forward."

Oliver said the biggest challenge in 2018 was the weather as they moved forward with civil work, piling, foundation and backfill.

"We had to bring a lot of equipment on-site from around the world and had to manage with high water levels in the Mississippi River, requiring storage in areas like Harvey until the water level allowed for movement to site," Oliver said.

The plant will have a productive capacity of approximately 1.7 million metric tons of methanol per year, and convert 146,000 MMBtu of natural gas daily into 4,950 metric tons of methanol. Methanol is used in the manufacturing of everyday products, including plywood, carpet, fuels and plastics. It's a key ingredient in plastics production and, as liquid at room temperature, has been seen as an easy way to access and export cheap U.S. natural gas globally.

Air Liquide will build, own and operate a 2,500-ton Air Separation Unit on YCI's property and will supply oxygen to the plant. Civil construction was completed by Cajun Industries and above ground construction of this facility is underway.

"The production of methanol in itself is a fairly simple process, but it is a world scale plant managing a large volume of methanol," Oliver said. "The key is to run the plant safely and efficiently. The fact that there are a number of similar plants around the world allows YCI to learn from others how best to operate the facility."

YCI Methanol One is being completed through a venture partner, Koch Methanol Investments LLC. Koch Methanol Investments will also build, own and operate the plant's tanks and other terminal assets to ship out methanol through water, rail and truck. Koch Methanol LLC has the exclusive rights to market 100 percent of on-spec methanol production from the YCI Methanol One facility in St. James and distribute it in the U.S. and globally.

At the end of 2018, New Orleans-based Boh Bros. Construction had essentially completed an expansion of the Plains Marine Dock for a joint venture between YCI and Plains.

Jim Tidwell, plant manager for YCI, said peak construction employment will exceed 1,000 a day. He estimates that currently about 25 percent of the YCI and Wood employees are St. James residents; 85 percent of YCI employees are Louisiana residents; and 65 percent of contractor Wood Group employees reside in Louisiana. The plant will have around 100 direct permanent jobs during operation.

"We are trying to hire local and use local resources, and we are encouraging every contractor we hire to use as many local vendors, subcontractors, and be local and use local as much as possible," Tidwell said. "We want St. James Parish to look at us as being a true part of the community from the start, and we have had good cooperation working with parish officials and communicating with them on a regular basis."

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Publication:New Orleans CityBusiness
Date:Mar 4, 2019
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