ESTABLISHED IN 1950 and headquartered in South Africa, Sasol Limited is an integrated energy and chemicals company that develops and commercializes technologies. Today, Sasol operates in 37 countries and has a North American headquarters in Houston, Texas.
Sasol has been an innovator in coal-to-liquids and gas-to-liquids (GTL) refining methods since the 1950s. The company produces a range of high-value product streams, including liquid fuels, chemicals and low-carbon electricity.
Since 2004, Entergy Louisiana has provided electricity for Sasol’s Lake Charles Chemical Complex and R&D laboratory in Westlake, Louisiana. The surrounding region is undergoing an industrial boom with a concentration of petrochemical industries taking advantage of natural resources, abundant shale gas fields and access to one of the world’s largest port systems. Sasol wanted to play a major role in the industrial expansion. In 2011, when Sasol announced plans to build a GTL complex, Sasol New Business Development Managing Director Ernst Oberholster (now Executive Vice President of Strategy, Development & Planning) said, “Louisiana has proven to be a place where research and next-generation technologies can thrive and grow.”
The GTL complex, which will include a gas processing plant, a chemical plant and a refinery, will be the first commercial plant in the U.S. to convert natural gas to diesel and other liquid fuels. It will use ethane cracker technology to break down the molecular bonds in ethane to form ethylene, a petrochemical used in detergents, cleaners, paint and coatings, and personal care products as well as in catalysts, high-performance abrasives and polymer additives.
Ethane is found in shale, and the expanded Sasol operation will provide a huge new source of demand for the Haynesville Shale and other natural gas sources in Louisiana. When it is fully operational, the Sasol facility will consume approximately 305 billion standard cubic feet of natural gas per year, an estimated $1.3 billion to $1.5 billion annually in natural gas purchases.
Locating a site for the Sasol expansion demonstrated the importance of closely coordinated public/private partnerships in economic development. Entergy worked with the Business Expansion and Retention Group of Louisiana Economic Development (LED BERG) to help Sasol identify another site in Calcasieu Parish for the new GTL complex.
Entergy funded core GIS suitability models for the state’s industrial and commercial site selection initiatives, which were then tailored to Sasol’s specific project needs, including proximity to 24” natural gas pipelines. These models were critical in the rapid, comprehensive response to Sasol’s needs.
Based on innovative GIS mapping technology, the recommended locations took into consideration a variety of customized site-selection criteria, including access to 24-inch natural gas pipelines. The GIS work and partnerships with the Port of Lake Charles to secure land options saved Sasol months of planning and preparation work.
Now that Sasol’s GTL expansion project is underway, Entergy Account Service Manager Calvin Johnson describes Entergy’s working relationship with Sasol: “We meet every other week with engineering, design, distribution and transmission team members, and the project management consultant and account manager. We also deliver biweekly updates on progress to avoid surprises in development and keep everything organized and running smoothly with open lines of communication. We’re also working with Sasol and other nearby customers to mitigate the effect of construction and other facility upgrades due to the Sasol project.”