Valero to build $700M expansion in St. Charles Parish - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Valero to build $700M expansion in St. Charles Parish

Updated:
Norco, La. -

One of the biggest energy plants in the New Orleans area is about to get even bigger.

Valero Refining owns 16 refineries worldwide, and it's about to make one of its biggest investments ever in St. Charles Parish.

Every day in southeast Louisiana, 100,000 people go to work in the region's industrial sector, and the number is growing.

"This time is as busy as it's ever been with the low natural gas prices," said Robert Hull with the Louisiana Chemical Industrial Association.

The Valero refinery is the third largest taxpayer in St. Charles Parish and currently employs about 600 people.

"They are paying an excess of $12 million a year to the local taxing districts," said Tab Troxler, the St. Charles Parish assessor.

Thanks to low fuel prices, Valero has recently expanded two of it's units, and is about to begin it's biggest expansion ever, $ 700 million to build a methanol plant, a substance used to make paint, and plastics.

"The location is being considered because of the infrastructure, and the friendly pro business environment in Louisiana," said Valero community relations director, Taryn Rogers.

Valero is among a growing number of U.S. plants taking advantage of natural gas costs 1/4 what they were five years ago. " We're still in the preliminary planning stage. The cost is $600-$700 million to build," said Rogers.

In St. Charles Parish, which derives 88 percent of its property taxes from industry, both Dow and Monsanto have also invested heavily.

Troxler said, "We're talking about $1 billion in investments in the last 18 months, not counting this new project at Valero."

All these plant expansions mean jobs, and it continues to be a challenge to find workers with the right qualifications. "We're always looking for good welders," said Hull.

The state legislature recently pumped tens of millions of dollars into new industrial training facilities in the region, mostly through Delgado. "Most of the jobs are in the $30-an-hour range and up," said Hull.

There are risks in this industry. Three people were killed, dozens injured in two explosions near Donaldsonville just last month.

Contractor Joseph Malta says the plants often learn from the mistakes. "Every time something bad happens, a corrective action goes into place," he said.

The jobs growth is expected to continue.  The service Manufacturer's News says Louisiana's industrial employment grew by nearly 3 percent over the last year.

The new Valero plant will provide more than 100 new construction jobs and 20 permanent jobs. The project should be completed in 2016.

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