Project manager: State-of-the-art facility will be ‘good neighbor’

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 28, 2009


BATON ROUGE — Larry Sciacchetano says Petroplex International, LLC’s St. James tank farm will be state-of-the-art.

“We feel we have done it the right way,” he said, pointing to an artist’s rendering on his office wall. “We weren’t going to go cheap.”

Sciacchetano said, “We want to be good neighbors.”

To emphasize his point, he pointed to an artist’s rendering on his office wall … “I was flying through Houston’s airport and saw the lakes they have near the entrance,” he said. “I contacted (the architect) and told them I wanted that.”

In addition, Sciacchetano said there will be a double row of trees planted around the north, east and west property lines to help soften the visual impact of the facility.

“We don’t have to do those things, but we volunteered to do so because we want to be a good member of the community,” he said. He added the 63 tanks would be located equidistant from the nearby houses.

While he says he expects the project to be permitted “soon,” Sciacchetano says the downturn in the economy has lengthened the process.

“You could have done a deal in a day (before the current economiy). The economy affected it a lot,” he said. “It’s a $300 million project and we undertook it before the crisis. When it hit, the landscape changed significantly. Before, you could walk in and finance (a deal) in a day. Now, (bankers are) incredibly conservative. With the equity you require, you have to be careful or you wind up giving the deal away.”

Sciacchetano said. “The one haven is the infrastructure … you still need to move it (oil) and you still need to store it.”

One of six investors involved in the project, Sciacchetano is excited, albeit a bit reserved, when he talks about the 1,700-acre parcel.

“It’s a really good property for industry,” he said. “It’s a great piece of property,” he added in the next sentence, running down the checklist: Highway 18 on one end and Highway 3127 crossing in the middle … Union Pacific Railroad crossing the property … four pipelines crossing the property and the keystone of the whole project — 3,000 feet of Mississippi River frontage.

Sciacchetano is joined in the project by Robert “Bobby” Faucheux, Jr., a LaPlace attorney and former state representative; Pat Sellars, founder and operator of A3M Vacuum Services of Reserve; Gregory Charles Smith, chairman of International Consolidated Minerals and executive chairman of PetroLatina Energy Plc; Steve Nosacka, founder and principal of New Orleans-based Trinity Capital Resoucres; Michael Carter, self-employed business broker and contractor and member of the St. John Parish Economic Development Board. Sciacchetano is the founder and CEO of Pentagon Petroleum, one of the more active exploration companies in Louisiana.

The project, while utilizing mainly private funding, also includes “some government support,” according to Sciacchetano, who said the firm’s permanent employment total of between 60 and 75 workers would fall below the state’s threshold for additional incentives and larger amounts of assistance.

“He said “350 or more” workers would be needed during the construction phase of the project, but that once the tank farm becomes operational, a more realistic figure would be between 60 and 75 jobs.

“There are a lot of terminals (along the river) that are part of a larger network and are operated remotely,” he explained. “They need fewer workers but because this will be our only location, we’ll need more.”

The property, historically in sugar cane production, normally employs about 100 persons during seasonal peaks, according to persons in the Vacherie area.

“We’re going to keep the acreage that’s not used in sugar cane,” he pointed out.

The facility will include a total of 63 tanks, including 26 with floating roofs and a capacity of 4.7 million barrels and 37 with fixed roofs and a capacity of 5.3 million barrels. It will be built in two phases.

Phase I — with its price tag of $300 million — will provide 4 million barrels of storage and a 1,200-foot multi-use dock. Phase 2 would add a 1,000-foot dock and would allow the facility to accommodate Aframax and Panamax tankers.

Because Petroplex will have the capacity to offload a tanker at the rate of 50,000 barrels per hours, a quicker turnaround can be provided.

“We can get a tanker in and out in one day,” Sciacchetano said. “That factor, plus the fact we’re located right before a (required) pilot change means less time here and lower operating costs to the shipper.”

Sciacchetano said he thought opposition to the project was centered around simply not wanting the facility in the community.

“We’re well within the requirements and we’ve done everything by the book,” he says. “The neighborhood claims we shouldn’t be (a) minor source, but a minor source permit is more restrictive … and we are monitored and restricted to meeting those requirements.”

Sciacchetano said he expected to receive notification from DEQ “shortly” that permits have been issued. “At that point, things will begin to move quickly,” he said, adding that he didn’t expect construction to get under way before the first of the year.