Construction on a $1.25-billion chemical complex recently announced for St. James Parish is scheduled to begin in the second quarter of 2019.

In November, Wanhua Chemical Group of China announced plans to build a manufacturing plant on a 250-acre site on the east bank of St. James Parish. The new facility is expected to create 1,000 construction jobs at peak activity.

“Our permitting preparations have been under way for some time, and we anticipate these will support [the start] our construction plans [in Q2 2019],” says James Newport, general manager for Wanhua Chemical U.S. Operations LLC. Procurement activities related to the project have been under way since early to mid-2018, he says.

In April 2017, Gov. John Bel Edwards and Wanhua Chairman and CEO Zengtai Liao announced Wanhua’s decision to build the complex somewhere in Louisiana. The St. James Parish site selection followed additional front-end engineering and development and site-selection activities, according to the state. The company also received a multimillion-dollar incentives package from the state, which includes a $4.3-million performance-based to offset site infrastructure costs, and access to the state’s work force development program, Louisiana Economic Development FastStart.

U.S. trade policy, weather and global sourcing uncertainties are among the key considerations that could create challenges for the project’s progress, although Newport says the complex is backed by an experienced project team, the company’s knowledge of global sourcing and its engineering partners. “Our engineering firm is very experienced globally in the construction strategy we are employing, as well as global sourcing and logistics,” he says.

The complex will be developed at the northwest corner of the intersection of Louisiana highways 3125 and 3214, on the east bank of the Mississippi River in the community of Convent, which will allow for both deep-draft river and rail access. The plant will produce methylene diphenyl diisocyante (MDI), which is used for various polyurethane products such as auto parts and spray foam insulation, and in appliances, electronics, furniture and footwear.

Newport says the company anticipates the project to be mechanically complete by the second quarter of 2021.

The Wanhua complex is the second MDI manufacturing plant that has been announced for St. James Parish this year. In total, the parish will be the site of $10.6 billion in industrial complex construction scheduled to begin in 2019.

In April, Taiwanese chemical firm Formosa Petrochemical Corp. announced plans for a $9.4 billion industrial complex on the west bank of the Mississippi River, on a 2,400-acre site just downriver from the Sunshine Bridge.

The complex will be designed to meet and/or exceed environmental safety standards, so it must undergo a rigorous federal and state permitting process before receiving approval to move forward. As of mid-December, the project was still in the permitting phase. Formosa's project is expected to create an estimated 8,000 construction jobs at its peak, with building and development under way between 2019 and 2028.