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Sasol enters next phase in quest to expand Westlake plant

Last Modified: Wednesday, September 18, 2013 7:33 PM

By Frank DiCesare / American Press

Sasol officials have entered the next phase in their quest to expand their Westlake plant with a multibillion-dollar GTL and ethane cracker complex.

Earlier this month, company officials applied for a water quality certification with the state Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. If granted, the certification, which is part of the Clean Water Act, will assert that Sasol’s proposed complex will not have an adverse effect on water quality once it is built.

“We have to make that demonstration in our Corps of Engineers permitting application,” said Michael Hayes, Sasol’s public affairs manager for U.S. megaprojects. “We will be disturbing some jurisdictional wetlands. So we have to come up with a wetlands offset, which are more wetlands that we have to create somewhere else or pay someone else to create somewhere else.”

Slated for completion between 2017 and 2020, the $16 billion to $21 billion complex is expected to produce more than 96,000 barrels of liquid fuels and chemicals each day. The ethane cracker will create ethylene, which is used to make synthetic fibers, detergents, paints and fragrances.

The project is expected to create 7,000 construction jobs and 1,200 permanent jobs.

“Keep in mind that’s not to say there will be an effect on water quality after (the complex) is built,” said Scott Guilliams, DEQ’s water and waste permit administrator. “As part of the Louisiana Pollution Discharge Elimination System permitting process, we are required to look at water quality, as well (as the Army Corps of Engineers). It’s just a separate track.”

Sasol submitted its application on Sept. 2. The application is now in the public comment period, which will end Sept. 23.

“Once this application is approved, the Corps can then continue their review of our permit application,” Hayes said. “At some point they will take an action to either approve or disapprove our application. If they approve our application, then they will take public comment on their proposed action.”

Jamie Phillippe, DEQ project manager, said the department’s criteria for determining water quality are site specific.

“But we still do ask for assurance that any excavated material will be cleaned,” he added.

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