Firm Led by Clark, Slater Eye Jefferson County for $3B Energy Plant

Firm Led by Clark, Slater Eye Jefferson County for $3B Energy Plant
Rodney Slater and Wes Clark

An energy company led by retired U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark and former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater is considering Jefferson County among possible sites for a $3 billion natural gas-to-liquid plant.

Energy Security Partners LLC of Little Rock aims to build a plant that will convert natural gas into diesel fuel. Plans call for a facility that would produce 33,000 barrels per day of diesel and naphtha. 

The plant would employ more than 200 people at an average wage of $40 an hour, the company said in a news release.

The company said Jefferson County is among "a number" of possible locations for the plant. On Tuesday, the Economic Development Corporation of Jefferson County approved resolutions saying it intends to offer the company a $3.9 million incentive package.

The incentives come from the county's 3/8-cent sales tax, which voters approved in 2011. The company could use the incentives to lease property from the economic development corporation and cover improvement costs, all under the condition that the company meet certain job creation thresholds and capital investment expectations.

"This package and this project are exactly in line with the purpose of the county's voter-approved sales tax," said George Makris, chairman of the economic development corporation and CEO of Simmons First National Corp. of Pine Bluff.

"The EDCJC recognizes the soundness of an incentive that develops industrial property to attract investment and supports a project of this magnitude," he said. "The economic impact of this project on Jefferson County will be transformational — we're competing to win."

Energy Security Partners said Jefferson County is a good candidate for the plant because of its strategic geographical value. Bryan Barnhouse, director of economic development for the Economic Development Alliance of Jefferson County, said the area is "the best possible location for major industrial projects."

"If offers access to the Arkansas River' proximity to high voltage lines, interstate gas and product pipelines; access to a major railroad; a terrain with few streams or wetlands issues; and proximity to a major interstate," Barnhouse said.

Energy Security Partners said in a project fact sheet that the firm expects to file permits related to the project and conduct "pre-construction engineering" and site development work early this year. It expects a peak construction workforce of 2,750 people.

The company, founded in 2012, says it aims to "develop [gas-to-liquid] infrastructure projects at strategic locations in North America."

"Our business model is to partner with natural gas producers, either contractually or via joint ventures, to supply natural gas to the GTL facility on a long-term basis," the company says on its website. "We expect to sell the premium diesel, motor gasoline and jet fuel produced by the GTL facility to credit-worthy commercial entities, government and military agencies, and/or investment grade-commodity traders via long-term off-take agreements."

Clark is the company's non-executive chairman and co-founder. A candidate for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, he is now chairman and CEO of Wesley K. Clark & Associates, a strategic consulting firm. Slater is a company director. He was was transportation secretary under President Bill Clinton.

The company's CEO, director and co-founder is Roger Williams. Williams founded International Biofuel Partners, which merged into Vertichem Corp. in 2007. An attorney, Williams spent the first part of his professional career working for Exxon Mobil Corp.

(With reporting by Phil Buck of THV 11 News.)