Total; Société Béarnaise de Gestion Industrielle (Sobegi; Mourenx, France), a Total and GDF-Suez (Paris) subsidiary; and Arkema have announced the launch of Lacq Chemical Cluster 2030 (LCC30) at Lacq in southwestern France. The cluster is intended to give a new lease on life to the Lacq manufacturing site, where gas reserves are dwindling. Total is expected to end commercial operations at the gas field in December 2013. LCC30 was inaugurated last week by local and regional politicians, and representatives from the partner companies.
The partners plan to invest a combined 154 million ($194 million) to transform the Lacq industrial site into a fine chemicals and specialty chemicals manufacturing platform. The investment has the backing of the French state and local authorities. LCC30 represents the culmination of several years of studies carried out by the three partners to redevelop the site and provide long-term employment at Lacq. The cluster will help to extend over the next 30 years gas extraction at Lacq, albeit at a lower flow rate, to supply energy and sulfur raw materials. New facilities will be operational from mid-2013 and equipment will be installed to supply the local chemical industry--particularly Arkema, which is an established producer of sulfur chemicals at Lacq--with competitive gas, electricity, sulfur, and steam.
The initiative will safeguard more than 1,000 jobs and the site will eventually attract other manufacturing companies "of all sizes," which will be able to benefit from the utilities and competitiveness they need for their activities, the partners say. Sobegi is contributing 110 million, Arkema 36 million, and Total EP France 8 million. This means Total group's overall contribution, directly and as a shareholder in Sobegi, will be 66 million. The state is providing about 6 million under "strategic industrial sectors" investments.
Toray Group (Tokyo) announced a decision recently to establish production facilities at Lacq on land purchased from Total. Toray operates a carbon fibers facility at Abidos, France that was formerly a joint venture with Arkema. Toray bought Arkema out of the jv recently. The business now operates as Toray Carbon Fibers Europe. The company plans to back integrate the Abidos plant to the production of carbon fiber precursors at Lacq.
Total will retain a major presence in the region when commercial gas operations come to a close at Lacq, through the company's Science and Technology Center at Pau, which employs 2,500 people dedicated to global exploration and production (EP) activities.
"This investment will enable Arkema to ensure the long-term future of production at our Lacq thiochemicals site by guaranteeing the long-term supply of gas as well as competitive access to services and utilities," says Marc Schuller, executive v.p./industrial chemicals at Arkema. Arkema is the world's leading producer of sulfur derivatives used in the refining and petrochemical industries as well as in the agricultural sector, where it is developing new applications. Arkema employs 700 people in the region, Schuller says.
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(Originally published June 25, 2012, in Chemical Week.)