South African energy company SASOL is joining the American shale gas revolution with an investment of up to $21 billion to build two new plants in Louisiana. If plans go forward as expected, Louisiana would be home to the first gas-to-liquid plant in America, which transforms natural gas into a liquid fuel form to power vehicles.
As the FT notes, this would be the biggest manufacturing investment in Louisiana history:
Gas production from previously inaccessible shale reserves has soared, thanks to improvements in the techniques of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, sending prices tumbling.
“Two or three years ago we would not have been talking about these projects,” he said. “What cheap natural gas and NGLs have done for this country is dramatic.”
The plants will create a peak total of 7,000 jobs while under construction, and about 1,200 while in operation.
Sasol has been one of the pioneers of modern gas-to-liquids technology, building the Oryx plant in Qatar, which produced about 34,000 barrels per day in the three months to September.
The Louisiana plant will be almost three times the size, reaching a planned capacity of 96,000 b/d in two phases.
Greens may wail about this development, but it’s hard to see the downside here. Thousands of new jobs and cheaper, cleaner energy speak for themselves.