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Methanex moving 2nd plant from Chile to Louisiana

GONZALES, La. (AP) -- Canadian methane company Methanex Corp. is moving a second $550 million methane plant from Chile to Louisiana.

Gov. Bobby Jindal and Methanex Vice President Gary Rowan announced the plans Thursday in Ascension Parish, saying the move will add 35 jobs to 130 expected when the first plant opens late next year in the Geismar community, about 20 miles from Baton Rouge.

Supply restrictions have kept Methanex's factories at Cabo Negro in southern Chile operating below capacity, according to the company. Chile originally had four plants and Methanex, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, has invested more than $1.3 billion there since 1998, according to the company website.

The two Louisiana plants are expected to cost a total of $1.1 billion.

The second Louisiana plant will let Methanex benefit quickly from low natural gas prices in North America, said Methanex president and CEO John Floren.

Methanex, described as the world's largest producer of methanol, expects to break ground on the second plant in 2014, with construction lasting about two years. Hiring for the first methanol plant is under way.

Methanol is used in products from windshield washer fluid to recyclable plastic bottles, plywood floors, paint, silicone sealants and synthetic fibers, and is blended into gasoline and other fuels.

Louisiana Economic Development offered Methanex a $1.2 million performance-based grant for site infrastructure improvements. Methanex also is expected to use Louisiana's workforce development program, industrial tax exemption and rebates under the state's quality jobs program.

"It's unprecedented to have a company announce two $500-plus million projects in our parish within the same 12-month period and we are thankful for Methanex's further expansion," Parish President Tommy Martinez said.

Louisiana's incentives for the first plant included $3.8 million to pay for some infrastructure costs and $1.5 million to cover relocation expenses.