Oxane to locate in Van Buren; possibly add 300 jobs (Updated with video)

2010 is off to a good start and it’s not even 2010 yet.

Houston-based Oxane Materials announced Monday (Dec. 28) it will locate in Van Buren its first manufacturing plant to produce a new proppant developed with nanotechnology developed by Rice University. (See video below of comments from area officials.)

The company will initially invest $15 million in the plant and hire up to 50 by summer 2010. Expansion plans “anticipated through 2014” could bring an additional $32 million investment and total employment of 300. The facility is located on Industrial Park Road in Van Buren near the corporate headquarters of USA Truck Inc.

Carl Sorrell, vice president of manufacturing for Oxane, said the announcement ends a “long decision process” in which more than 80 facilities in eight states were considered. He said reasons for ultimately selecting Van Buren included “excellent” logistics for bringing in raw materials and shipping the finished product, a great workforce and a “very business-minded” community.

Sorrell declined to disclose info on average wages.

Oxane President Chris Coker has pushed Oxane since its founding in late 2002. According to “Oil and Gas Investor” magazine, Coker raised more than $15 million from “industry partners, private-equity firms, and high-net-worth families.” He was responsible for directing Oxane to its focus on new proppant technology and is named the inventor on two issued Oxane patents and more than 10 Oxane patent applications. Prior to Oxane, Coker worked with a venture capital firmed tied to Enron Corp. He earned a masters in business administration from the University of Chicago and a bachelor’s degree in economics from Occidental College.

PROPPANTS
To improve production of a well, a well service company will force a frac fluid under high pressure into underground formations around the well bore. The proppants, suspended in the frac fluid, are forced into the underground fractures and “prop” them open after the frac fluid is removed.

Oxane, which boasts to be an “energy-focused nanoproducts company,” will be the second company producing proppants in the Fort Smith area. Paris, France-based St. Gobain (formerly Norton Proppants) has an operation in Fort Smith on Clayton Expressway.

However, Oxane’s proppants use nanotechnology to make the proppant lighter and stronger. The press release notes the following about the new proppant: “Oxane’s products have a superior weight-to-strength ratio, which promises to increase oil and gas recoveries, particularly when working in unconventional assets like shale, tight gas, tight oil and coal bed methane. OxFracTM and OxBallTM are designed to increase effective fracture length, enhance control over created fracture geometry, and reduce the environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing. Commercially available in 2010, modeling suggests Oxane’s products could increase initial production by up to 50 percent and shallow production decline by up to 15 percent, improving total recovery while reducing total well cost per play.”

RICE ALLIANCE
The Rice Alliance for Technology & Entrepreneurship, began in 1999, worked to develop the special proppant in order to capture more natural gas from new and existing wells, and to do this at a lower cost. According to this slide show presentation from Andrew Barron with the Rice Alliance, the new proppant developed by Rice and Oxane will allow for fewer wells to be drilled (less surface damage) for the same amount of gas, reduce chemical costs and reduce fluid costs. Such reductions also have the added benefit of less environmental impact, according to the Rice report.

Cheryl Garner, vice president of economic for the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce, praised the “quick action” from Van Buren Mayor Bob Freeman and Van Buren Chamber of Commerce President Jackie Krutsch for helping bring Oxane to the area.

Freeman and Krutsch said they were appreciative of the support from the Fort Smith chamber and the Arkansas Economic Development Commission in landing Oxane.

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“We been on the wrong side of job news in the past, so its good to get this (Oxane) going into (2010),” Freeman told The City Wire.

Using nanotechnology in proppant manufacturing is new but not exclusive to Oxane. Houston-based Baker Hughes Inc., for example, filed for a patent in October 2007 for a “Nano-sized particle-coated proppants."

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Congratulations and kudos on new jobs

Collaboration and cooperation in action for Fort Smith and Van Buren. Terrific work, Cheryl Garner! Thanks to all who have been involved in this recruitment.

Congratulations!

First, I want to say--Welcome Oxane! We're glad you selected Van Buren! Second, my hats off the the Fort Smith and Van Buren Chambers for your vision and hard work to bring Oxane to our region. Special thanks to Cheryl, Jackie and Mayor Freeman. We are so fortunate to have your leadership! Cathy Gifford

Logistics

Quote (from KFSM): "The major reason that we are here in Fort Smith are the exceptional logistics both for incoming raw materials and outgoing finished products via barge via rail via truck," Sorrell stated. There's your pitch for the regional intermodal facility. If one of the primary factors in their choice of this area was logistics, imagine the enhanced impact of a fully functioning regional freight system.

Well then scream for I-49!

Let's face it, most companies look at state maps and pick Little Rock as the perfect hub to serve their Arkansas customers. It makes more sense to look at interstate systems. You are correct in considering the future of Fort Smith as an ideal regional hub. Nestled on I-40, we offer the perfect balance between Memphis and Amarillo. North to South; not so much. I-49 will make us the similar solution from New Orleans to Kansas City. We need to speed up the Bella Vista by-pass; but more than anything, we need to be screaming our lungs out to get the highway extended down to I-30 and Texarkana. Talk about a stimulus solution; it's right under our feet. Congratulations to Cheryl Garner and the winning team that is bringing new business to our area. Imagine what they could accomplish if we only made it a little easier for them.
Let's face it, most companies look at state maps and pick Little Rock as the perfect hub to serve their Arkansas customers. It makes more sense to look at interstate systems. You are correct in considering the future of Fort Smith as an ideal regional hub. Nestled on I-40, we offer the perfect balance between Memphis and Amarillo. North to South; not so much. I-49 will make us the similar solution from New Orleans to Kansas City. We need to speed up the Bella Vista by-pass; but more than anything, we need to be screaming our lungs out to get the highway extended down to I-30 and Texarkana. Talk about a stimulus solution; it's right under our ...>> Read the entire comment.

I hear ya...

but I'm trying to be practical. Intermodal facility: $40 million+; partial private funding I-49 completion: $3 billion+; dependent on federal funding For the cost of a couple minor league baseball stadiums, we could have a functioning regional intermodal system which would go a long ways to retain existing companies and attract others similar to Oxane. For the cost of the New York Yankees, Dallas Cowboys and L.A. Lakers combined, we could have our long sought interstate. We can do the intermodal facility. The interstate is a whole other ballgame largely dependent on external funding. Even if they had all the money right now, I believe I read it would take 8-10 years to complete I-49, and we know we aren't getting that money overnight. With serious federal belt-tightening likely around the corner, I wonder if any of us will live to see the road completed. So while we all keep screaming for I-49, lets get the intermodal facility going.

different kind of intermodal

Intermodal freight system: Barge between the gulf ports and Fort Smith; truck to/from all points within four hours drive, rail to/from major metro. We can be an important regional distribution hub. We need leadership to make the North-South I-40 to I-30 connection happen. Missouri and Louisiana are doing their part at the state line. Yeah, I know, it's one, two, three strikes your out at the old ball game. I buy-in to the arguments to be a more recreational community that draws tourists and keeps our families fit and happy. But we're full count with two outs when it comes to manufacturers considering our town as the pivot point to their supply chain. When was the last time you heard anyone mention I-49 as a priority? Yeah, it's a state/federal funded project; but until we start to get nasty about it, the 8-10 year horizon will only become 16-20, and then 24-30 years out. This project was proposed in the 70's and 80's and is growing stale from neglected commentary. And what would be so wrong with seeing our federal government invest in our state. This is a far cry from a bridge to nowhere.
Intermodal freight system: Barge between the gulf ports and Fort Smith; truck to/from all points within four hours drive, rail to/from major metro. We can be an important regional distribution hub. We need leadership to make the North-South I-40 to I-30 connection happen. Missouri and Louisiana are doing their part at the state line. Yeah, I know, it's one, two, three strikes your out at the old ball game. I buy-in to the arguments to be a more recreational community that draws tourists and keeps our families fit and happy. But we're full count with two outs when it comes to manufacturers considering our town as the pivot point to their supply ...>> Read the entire comment.

rational concern

Given that this industry is not required to disclose the contents of it's materials, is exempt from adhering the public protections granted in the Safe Drinking Water Act, is exempt from EPA regulation; is there any concern that this new nano technology will be the lead/asbestos technology of our generation?