South Africa Renewing New Orleans Diplomatic Ties

May 16, 2012

Diplomatic ties between New Orleans and South Africa are being renewed after a break 33 years ago over Apartheid rule. An honorary consul’s main concern will be shepherding a $10 billion energy plant to completion in southwest Louisiana.

The South African company Sasol is planning a $10 billion-dollar plant in Westlake, converting natural gas to liquid fuels. South African Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool says the technology was developed when oil imports were blocked from his country.  As international pressure grew to end the white-minority rule under Apartheid, the government developed fuel alternatives. Rasool says Louisiana is a natural fit for his country’s investment.

“Louisiana is the place at which all of this gas comes together. It can come together in Louisiana and it can be dispersed from Louisiana using the channels that the Mississippi offers to get it all over the U.S. These are also the areas in which the greatest deposits of natural gas are to be found. And so rather than getting large pipeline and shipment costs with the natural gas you do it as close to the deposits as is possible.”

New Orleans attorney Keith Doley is the new honorary consul, and will concentrate on getting the plant online.

“A foreign company to come in and make an investment of this nature, it just shows that the doors of Louisiana are open for business. This won’t be the last plant that comes here. There’s a possibility that there may be other plants. We have natural resources that other states don’t have. They have to come to us.”   

Officials expect 850 permanent jobs at the plant, with several thousand during construction. Rasool says the project could be finished in five years.