GTL Americas president explains firm’s next steps

GTL Americas President Leon Codron addresses the Pine Bluff Small Business Association during a luncheon at the Pine Bluff Country Club on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023. (Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell)
GTL Americas President Leon Codron addresses the Pine Bluff Small Business Association during a luncheon at the Pine Bluff Country Club on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023. (Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell)

Nearly two months after unveiling plans for front-end engineering and design (FEED), the president of GTL Americas addressed the next steps in the gas-to-liquid facility's establishment just off Interstate 530 in Jefferson County, near the National Center for Toxicological Research.

Speaking to the Pine Bluff Small Business Association on Wednesday, Leon Codron explained the engineering phase for America's first GTL facility would take another 14 to 16 months, well in line with the 18- to 24-month projection made when GTL signed a FEED agreement with Hyundai ENG America and S&B Engineers and Constructors Ltd. in September. The purpose of GTL Americas is to produce ultra-clean, low-emission, biodegradable fuels for transportation, and its establishment is considered the largest industrial project in Arkansas' history.

"We are going to produce -- if you look at your glasses of water -- a diesel the color of that water," Codron said during an SBA luncheon at the Pine Bluff Country Club. "If you're using diesel today, and you go to the pump and use diesel just like you would gasoline, the gasoline is octane, 70, 80 or 90 [grade]. Diesel is cetane, and cetane is about 40 to 45. We're going to produce a diesel that's 75, so think of it as going from super to premium."

Diesel burns cooler, lasts longer and requires less maintenance, Codron said.

The FEED is expected to last until late 2025, according to an official timeline from GTL Americas. That's when the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) phase is expected to begin, with the commissioning phase to begin toward the end of the EPC phase in 2028. Commercial operations are expected to begin by 2029.

Codron outlined five steps of construction, which are to build roads to GTL Americas; prepare the facility by graveling, leveling, etc.; build the infrastructure; bring in the heavy equipment and construct the office building.

Debt financing of up to 70% of the project funding needs is not closed but it is "spoken for," Codron said. A "Pathfinder Group" of ING Bank, Intesa Sanpaolo, KFW and MUFG has been identified as the lenders ready to underwrite the supermajority of the debt requirements, with four other banks listed as possible syndicates.

Gas-to-liquid manufacturing is different from the liquefied natural gas industry in that liquid gas is placed into a solid state, whereas LNG is natural gas that is frozen and warmed up again, Codron explained. The LNG industry is common along the Gulf Coast, from Texas to Florida.

"The overabundance of natural gas in the United States is because of fracking technology that started this revolution," Codron told SBA attendees. "What we did was say, here's all this natural gas. How can it be used for higher value? We don't frack. We buy natural gas, but the natural gas industry got tainted by those who oppose fracking."

Codron addressed carbon dioxide emissions, making it a common topic locally in the wake of the announcement of Graphyte, a CO2 removal firm set to begin operations at the Jefferson Industrial Park in January. The airline industry, Codron said, accounts for 2% of global CO2 emissions, although Codron cited some reports of 4%.

"We are going to be Scope 1, Scope 2-compliant before we come into operation," Codron said, explaining standards of direct greenhouse gas emissions. "Scope 3, we'll take care of it, or the climate will take care of it."

In Scope 1, Codron explained, a company has to take care of the CO2 generated from its plant. In Scope 2, the electricity that comes to the plant must be offset as well.

"In Scope 3, when they use your product, who is taking care of the CO2?" Codron asked rhetorically.

GTL Americas will also consider taking the carbon dioxide it produces and burying it in an aquifer, Codron said, although he estimated its CO2 footprint is 25% less than a refinery.

"Our footprint looks like a 500-megawatt combined cycle power plant," Codron said. "It's not a lot. Every bit helps, obviously. So, we'll take care of our own CO2."