Productive dialogue continues with GTL officials

Despite time running short for an originally planned groundbreaking late this year for Extiel-Advantage Somerset, a GTL (gas to liquid) plant, Chris Girdler, president and CEO of SPEDA (Somerset-Pulaski Economic Development Authority) late last week issued a seemingly optimistic statement about the proposed Somerset plant.

"cccccAt this time, we are still having productive dialogue with the company and ensuring all the required due diligence is completed by all parties involved. We greatly appreciate the company's interest in our community and we should have further updates in the near future," said Girdler in an e-mail statement to the Commonwealth Journal.

The GTL plant, according to an announcement last year, would locate on a 23-acre site south of Ferguson that was the former Crane Company property. It would be built in two phases and eventually create 60 well-paying jobs.

Plans for the GTL plant originated during the final year of the Mayor Eddie Girdler administration and the now dissolved Somerset-Pulaski County Development Foundation. Somerset was chosen as the plant site because of its plentiful supplies of natural gas.

Mayor Alan Keck, who defeated Girdler in the 2018 General Election, said shortly after taking office he was " ... cautiously optimistic with healthy skepticism" about the plant. Since then, however, he has been in close contact with the Houston-based firm and has met with the company's officials both here and in Houston.

Greg Carr, managing director of Extiel GPG LlC, parent firm of Extiel-Advantage Somerset, made a surprise announcement, at least to the media, that the Houston company has to raise $110 million to make the Somerset plant a reality. Other than words of optimism about possibilities of raising the money, there have been no publicly announced reports of progress on the fundraising.

According to the initial non-binding framework agreement, debt financing of approximately $50 million was expected to be supplied by a commercial lender through a private capital markets transaction. Total cost of the GTL project is estimated to be $75 million.

In the deal, allegedly signed and announced publicly, Somerset would invest $2,270,000 extending utilities to the plant site and providing office space and training support. Pulaski County is credited with a $345,000 contribution of the plant site, and the state would provide $15,960,000 in tax incentives over 20 years.

Carr said earlier target dates for the Somerset plant have not changed -- complete construction late next year and be operational in 2021. "It will take about 18 months to build the plant," he noted. Carr had not returned a telephone call Tuesday.

The proposed plant is a down-sized version of a large-scale GTL plant design and will produce 250 barrels per day of ultra-clean synthetic fuel products, waxes and industrial hydrogen.

The GTL plant requires pipeline quality natural gas to make the following products:

• FDA approved Paraffin Wax used by many industries.

• Group 3 base oil.

• Environmentally friendly solvents HDS and LDS which increase fuel efficiency and help minimize wear on an engine.

• Hydrogen, 99 percent pure. A GTL press release says three local businesses are committed to expand once hydrogen is available.

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