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Oxane may employ 350 in Van Buren

Houston-based Oxane Materials now employs about 60 in its Van Buren manufacturing operation, and may employ up to 350 by the end of 2013, according to Jeff Franklin, Oxane’s vice president of manufacturing.

Franklin, speaking to more than 150 people gathered at the First Friday Breakfast of the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the company is in the process of adding a second line and plans to have six production lines by the end of 2013. The facility is located on Industrial Park Road in Van Buren near the corporate headquarters of USA Truck Inc.

Oxane officials announced in December 2009 they would bring their unique ceramic proppant production to Van Buren. In introducing Franklin to the First Friday group gathered at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, Van Buren Chamber President Jackie Krutsch said “wonderful” cooperation between Van Buren and Fort Smith chamber and city officials helped bring Oxane to the area.

Franklin praised the support of businesses and area local governments, saying he has worked all over the world and is impressed with the “business friendly” attitudes.

“I don’t see that very often,” he said of the Van Buren and Fort Smith chambers working together.

He also was complimentary of the people in the region.

“Your workforce is very capable, very determined,” Franklin said.

Franklin also said the region has a transportation network that is helping the company grow, and specifically praised the support from Van Buren-based 5 Rivers Distribution.

Oxane initially said it would invest $15 million in the plant and hire up to 50 by summer 2010. Franklin said Friday the company has invested between $25 million and $50 million and may invest up to $100 million by the end of 2013.

“We have big things planned,” he said.

The company uses a patented nanotechnology process to produce ceramic proppants that are injected into geologic formations to “prop” open fissures and allow oil and natural gas to be drawn out. Franklin said the Oxane proppant is lighter and stronger than most other proppants and is often used with traditional proppants to reach deeper into shale formations.

“It’s like a turbo proppant,” Franklin explained.

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Franklin also used his address to promote the concept of U.S. energy independence. He said the country should invest in the technology to better extract billions of tons of oil and natural gas.

“We as a country need to dedicate more research and development to extract more energy at home,” Franklin said.

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