Casa Grande and Pinal County have become accustomed to major economic development projects, but the one that came to PinalCentral Monday clearly is a major one. The number of jobs does not rival the potential of Lucid Motors and Nikola Motor Company, but the overall impact on the area will be huge.
The value of the stated investment is staggering — $3-plus billion, one of the largest in Arizona’s history. Construction jobs are to total 2,000 and the permanent workforce is listed at 265 good-paying positions. The addition to the property tax base for local governments and schools will be tremendous.
With the planned growth of electric auto manufacturing here and a likely switch seen nationwide, some may question the need for a gasoline production plant. The truth is that electric autos are out of reach for most people now and will be for a while. The demand for gasoline is massive nationwide and the supply is vulnerable to refinery problems, because most of the existing ones are old and in the path of major storms that sometimes damage them.
Besides the age of existing refineries, the technology itself is a century old. Nacero Inc.’s process to convert natural gas to gasoline will be new in America, but it has been used successfully overseas. The process is very clean — without the harmful byproducts created in refineries. Those are shipped overseas and burned — releasing toxic substances into the Earth’s atmosphere.
Pinal County is blessed with transportation infrastructure, both rail and highway, that has aided its development. It also has natural gas pipelines owned by two companies, with the addition of the second a few years ago. That provides the impetus for locating the plant on the western edge of Casa Grande, the first of a group planned by Nacero across the nation.
It is apparent that Nacero is led by people who have the business and technical knowledge to accomplish this project. They have done their homework in presenting it to the proper federal, state and local authorities to begin the approval process. The plan is to begin construction next year and do it in phases through 2025, eventually producing 35,000 barrels a day of zero-sulfur gasoline that is cost competitive. The zero-sulfur part is key because the company says that allows autos’ catalytic converters to more effectively remove other pollutants. The process produces water as a byproduct, which will provide most of what is used in the production.
The pending major announcement has been a mystery for a long time, but we believe it is well worth the wait.