A refinery project expected to bring jobs and economic benefit to Rusk County is getting a major boost.
The Angelina & Neches River Authority, as the conduit bond issuer, was notified that the Gregg County Refining, LLC, refinery project has been designated for funding under the Hurricane Ike Disaster Area Bond Program, ANRA officials announced Thursday.
That designation means that the authority can issue bonds for up to $181 million, which would pay for construction-related costs associated with the refinery, said Kelley Holcomb, general manager of ANRA. A small portion of money also will be used to buy into Lake Columbia, a regional water supply project, as a participant.
“I think this represents serious commitment on the part of Gov. (Rick) Perry to help spur economic development, particularly in East Texas, and a project like this when it has multiple benefits via the economy and jobs as well as Lake Columbia, which is a project the state has been helping us move forward, it’s a win-win for everybody involved,” Holcomb said.
The refinery will be on a site off Texas Highway 323, 1.25 miles southeast of New London.
Current processing equipment in Longview will be relocated to Rusk County, upgraded and restarted, said John Kennon, vice president of business development for CDE Inc., a facilitative management service company involved in the project.
Plans for the project, which has been in the works for about 18 months, are to produce 30,000 barrels per day of light sweet crude and produce gasoline and diesel fuel.
Kennon has said the reason behind the refinery project is “true economic development.”
An estimated 300 to 400 jobs will come to the area during the approximately two-year construction period, and up to 85 high-paying, full-time jobs are expected at the site when the refinery is operational. Over the next decade, the economic impact of the project is estimated at $8 billion, according to a presentation Kennon made earlier this year. The immediate economic impact, including construction and sales tax on local materials, is estimated at $384 million.
“I think it’s going to be great for the community, the county and the surrounding areas,” New London Mayor Dale McNeel said by phone Thursday.
Rusk County Judge Joel Hale echoed McNeel, saying the county is excited and elated about the prospective new jobs and economic development.
“We have high hopes it’s going to be a positive for the entire county and the West Rusk district and Kilgore College,” he said. “We’re just so happy this is happening.”
Construction is expected to start by this fall and be completed within 24 months.
According to a news release, project owners have worked with local entities such as the ANRA, Rusk County, West Rusk County Consolidated ISD and the Henderson Economic Development Corporation to assist with project development.
Holcomb said project owners also have committed a portion of the funds for securing water from Lake Columbia.
Once the refinery starts up, it will need a minimum of 5 million gallons of water per day for cooling and other process purposes, according to a news release.
Holcomb said the refinery project, and its need for water, will provide funding and purpose to help facilitate the development of Lake Columbia and “get the job done.”
“In addition to providing an important source of funding, the project will bolster the near and long-term need for the reservoir and provide infrastructure for the delivery of water east of the reservoir,” he said in a news release.
The authority anticipates closing on the bond in the next 60 to 90 days, at which time construction activities on the refinery will start.
Holcomb said details of the Lake Columbia timeline are unclear at the moment, but by the time the authority closes on the bond, it will have a detailed expected timeline.
Lake Columbia is projected to be 10,000 surface acres and about 14 miles long, with the dam site about two miles east of Jacksonville.
Its anticipated yield is 85,507 acre-feet annually for use by water supply customers.