Pollock, LA – TopChem

UPDATED: 04/01/2017 — see Change Log

OWNER: TopChem Pollock LLC (Investimus Foris / ICOR)
PROJECT: Brownfield ammonia plant[memberful does_not_have_subscription=”1314-ammonia-industry-annual-subscription,1311-ammonia-industry-monthly-subscription,3338-ammonia-industry-30-day-subscription”]

COST (reported): $265 million
JOB CREATION (reported): 85 permanent, 560 construction
START-UP DATE (reported): None

Ammonia 500,000 mtpy [Membership required] [Membership required]
Units: stpd, stpy, mtpd, mtpy = short/metric tons per day/year.
[1] United States Geological Survey (USGS) Mineral Yearbook, Nitrogen gives capacity in metric tons per year, calculated as “engineering design capacity adjusted for 340 days per year of effective production capability,” rounded to three significant digits. Source: most recent year, Table 4: Domestic Producers of Ammonia, http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/nitrogen/.
[2] Louisiana Governor’s Office press release. Sources: linked below.
[3] [Membership required]. Sources: linked below.
[4] [Membership required]. See Methodology.


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In July 2015, the Louisiana governor’s office announced that Lithuanian investors intended to build an ammonia plant in Pollock, by retrofitting an idled biodiesel plant. The air permit was issued in December 2016, disclosing project details. Construction was going to begin in 2017 for start-up in 2019 but, in April 2017, the project was “put on hold indefinitely.”

COST: $265 million
JOB CREATION: 80 permanent, 1,700 peak construction — see Job Openings [none yet]
START-UP DATE: 2Q 2019, originally Q3 2018
LIKELIHOOD: Possible — see Methodology

Ammonia 500,000 mtpy 1,500 mtpd 547,500 mtpy
Units: stpd, stpy, mtpd, mtpy = short/metric tons per day/year.
[1] United States Geological Survey (USGS) Mineral Yearbook, Nitrogen gives capacity in metric tons per year, calculated as “engineering design capacity adjusted for 340 days per year of effective production capability,” rounded to three significant digits. Source: most recent year, Table 4: Domestic Producers of Ammonia, http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/nitrogen/.
[2] Louisiana Governor’s Office press release. Sources: linked below.
[3] Title V air permit application. Sources: linked below.
[4] Adjusted Capacity is in metric tons per year assuming operations for 365 days per year; based on air permit. See Methodology.

FEEDSTOCK: Natural gas

In July 2015, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal announced that Investimus Foris intended to retrofit an idle biodiesel plant to start producing ammonia, at a cost of $265 million.

The project was under development until April 2017, when it was cancelled:

Plans … have been put on hold indefinitely, officials with the Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance announced Friday …

Investimus Foris officials said the company is weighing its options, including whether to sell the property to another company or bring in other investors. Investimus Foris board Chairman Arunas Laurinaitis indicated that the company would now explore different scenarios.
KALB, Grant Parish plant project suspended, 03/31/2017

The biodiesel plant had itself been a conversion project, in 2006: a retrofit of a previously idled ammonia plant that had been built in 1977. This project, therefore, would have brought the site back to its former use, and benefitted from the existing infrastructure: power, natural gas, rail, and access to an ammonia pipeline for product distribution.

In December 2016, LDEQ issued final air permits for the project, both Title V and PSD, clearing the way for the project to move forward. In addition, the permits and associated documents provided new disclosures, specifically regarding two things: the extent of construction and the schedule.

First, while the ammonia plant has been promoted as a “retrofit,” it might more properly have been described as a new build:

The Ammonia Production Plant will be new construction and employ state-of-the-art technology to ensure the process is as efficient as possible …

The only existing equipment that will be utilized are the ammonia storage tank and the cooling tower. Both structures will be inspected and repaired if necessary prior to the commencement of operations.”
LDEQ, TopChem Pollock: Title V and PSD permit, Statement of Basis, 12/20/2016

According to the 2015 press release, Investimus Foris had been “negotiating with European and Asian companies to purchase and move ammonia plant components that will be coupled with existing plant infrastructure in Pollock to create the new ammonia facility.” According to the air permit, “At present, all equipment associated with biodiesel production has been removed from the property.”

Second, the schedule had been pushed back by six months; the original plan had been for construction to begin in Q2 2016, for a Q3 2018 start-up:

We hope to begin construction in the second quarter of next year [2017] with operation beginning the second quarter of 2019.
Arunas Laurinaitis, CEO TopChem, LDEQ Public Hearing Transcript, 12/06/2016

I am not presently aware why the developers changed from expecting construction to begin Q2 2017, in December, to abandoning the project four months later.

The governor’s 2015 press release had stated that the project had been under discussion since April 2014, and that construction had originally been “expected to start in the second quarter of 2016 and … completed within 26 months, in the third quarter of 2018.” The permits disclosed a shorter construction timeframe of 20 months.

Despite the minor delays and the lack of any announcements (TopChem released no information and has no website), the existence of an air permit indicated that the project had financing, at least to an extent. TopChem paid the air permit application fee of more than $50,000, and also needed to clear the previous site owners’ unpaid LDEQ fees in excess of $24,000 before work could begin. These sums were presumably dwarfed by the consultancy fees required to research and write the air permit application.

While the air permit did not identify any technology or construction firms, the application referred to emission data “provided by KBR,” implying a likely relationship. I do not know to what extent KBR served as a consultant, a technology licensor, or an EPC contractor, but this is a logical relationship because the original Pollock ammonia plant was a Kellogg unit (the precursor to KBR).

Although the original announcement gave the project cost as $265 million, in its air permit application, the plant’s capex was slightly reduced to $260 million. The plant estimated its annual operating costs as $30 million.

In October 2015, Investimus Foris established its US subsidiary, TopChem Pollock LLC, which was to have been the operating entity for the plant. According to the air permit, “TopChem assumed ownership of the site in 2015.”

The company has made no public announcements, apart from the Louisiana governor’s press release. No website exists for TopChem or Investimus Foris.

TopChem announced on ICOR's website, October 2016
TopChem on ICOR’s website, October 2016
However, ICOR’s website was redesigned in late 2016, to include TopChem Pollock. Information given on the website indicate an expected annual turnover of 180 million euros, with 82 future employees. No other information is provided.

(When I first visited the Icor website, in July 2015, it featured some of my favorite industrial prose, for example: “Our goal is to surpass tomorrow, and to do it today.”)

In its response to public comments on the air permit, TopChem had specified that proximity to the ammonia pipeline was essential because the company would “target domestic markets, particularly in the Midwest.” In its permit application, TopChem had said that the ammonia is “for use in agricultural applications. Most of it will be shipped by pipeline to destinations in the northern US,” but that the plant would also have shipped product by truck and rail. Additionally, “the company also is exploring foreign export markets.”

The governor’s press release, from July 2015, gave the plant’s ammonia capacity as 500,000 tons per year, which is close to the 470,000 mtpy capacity of the original Pollock ammonia plant. The air permit application, from March 2016, gave the capacity as 1,500 mtpd, which would have been 510,000 mtpy assuming 340 operating days per year.

The old ammonia plant at Pollock was owned by Farmland Industries and started operating in 1977 with a capacity of 1,250 stpd. When Farmland entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2002, the plant was idled. The Pollock plant was not, however, included in the auction of assets that Koch Industries won, when it purchased Farmland’s plants in Trinidad and Tobago, Enid, OK, Fort Dodge, IA, Beatrice, NE, and Dodge City, KS. (Farmland’s other plant, in Lawrence, KS, was purchased by Oman Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals LLC, dismantled, and shipped off to Oman. However, in 2016, it seems that this unit may return to the US under AM Agrigen’s ownership in Killona, LA.)

In 2006, the idle Pollock ammonia plant was purchased and converted to biodiesel production, operating as Vanguard Synfuels, with a capacity of 15 million gallons per year. Vanguard stopped producing biodiesel in September 2013 and, since then, the plant has again lain idle.

Investimus Foris has, as far as I can tell, no corporate history at all. Its name is latin for “Invest Abroad.” The governor’s press release stated that the company is “affiliated with ICOR, a Lithuania-based conglomerate of companies specializing in manufacturing, energy, facilities management and other areas.” Jindal called it a “subsidiary” of ICOR. ICOR’s website doesn’t mention Investimus Foris.

ICOR, which used to call itself The Rubicon Group, was founded in 1990 as a freight company, and has also moved into metals trading and real estate, among many other industries. The group, whose Chairman is Andrew Janukonis, should have good working knowledge of biofuels plants, having run BioNovus since 2006 – although that company appears to be under investigation, and has renamed itself “First Opportunity.”

The CEO of TopChem and “Board Chairman” of Investimus Foris is Arunas Laurinaitis, who brings significant ammonia experience to the project. For ten years, from 2001 to 2011, he was Vice President of Achemos Grupe, which runs a range of businesses. Its “main company,” Achema, is a large nitrogen fertilizer plant in Jonava, Lithuania, with a product capacity of something over 1 million metric tons per year. Although the plant started-up in 1965, under Soviet rule, Laurinaitis was with the company for the construction of a second ammonia train, which started-up in 2006 with a 550,000 mtpy capacity (similar to the proposed TopChem plant). Achemos Grupe’s other companies run, among many things, fertilizer trading, grain terminals, cargo handling and logistics, and fertilizer terminals in Belgium and Germany.

(Achema’s Jonava nitrogen plant is unfortunately also noteworthy as the location of a major, fatal explosion in 1989, when the nitrophosphate factory exploded and 7,000 tons of ammonia was released, causing a “toxic cloud 7 km wide and 50 km long” [see Wikipedia or in-depth PDF]. This disaster pre-dates Laurinaitis’s involvement with the company, which was awarded the title “Environmental Company of the Year” by the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences in 2009.)

I’m unclear why Laurinaitis left Achemos Grupe, or exactly what legal shenanigans the company is currently dealing with: local media related his surprise departure, followed by shareholder lawsuits, and his continued 4.75% ownership stake, but I don’t read Lithuanian.[/memberful]

View larger map with all ammonia plants.

ADDRESS: 737 Abe Hall Road, Pollock, LA 71467, United States

WEBSITE: [no website yet for TopChem or Investimus Foris]
WEBSITE: http://www.icor.lt/en


  • USGS: Minerals Yearbook, Nitrogen [RECENT / ARCHIVE]
  • Louisiana DEQ permit documents: (search AI #3133) [LINK]


  • 03/31/2017: KALB: Grant Parish plant project suspended [LINK]
  • 07/22/2015: Bayou Buzz: Jindal, Investimus Foris announce $265M capital investment, 584 indirect jobs in Grant Parish [LINK]

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