U.K.-based Amec Foster Wheeler has signed a contract to provide engineering, project management, procurement and early construction services for a new methanol plant on the Mississippi River in Louisiana.

The 1.7 million tons per year methanol facility in St. James Parish is the first major project in the United States for Yuhuang Chemical Inc. (YCI), a U.S.-based subsidiary of China’s Shandong Yuhuang Chemical Company Co. Ltd.

Construction work is planned to begin this year, with the first phase of the project beginning operations by 2018. The plant will use natural gas as its primary feedstock, and Air Liquide Global E&C Solutions’ Lurgi MegaMethanol process.

Announcing the company’s plans last year, Charlie Yao, CEO of YCI, said: “Building a new world-scale methanol unit in Louisiana is Shandong Yuhuang’s first major step in becoming a global player in the petrochemical industry.

“While the company has long been highly regarded in China as one of its primary contributors to the industry in Asia, this Louisiana operation represents the company’s commitment to significance on the world petrochemical platform.”

Amec and YCI intend to extend the deal into a full-scope engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract in 2016 on mutually agreed terms.

Simon Naylor, Amec’s group president for the Americas, commented: “We are delighted to have been selected by Yuhuang Chemical Inc. to help deliver this milestone project safely and sustainably, and look forward to expanding our relationship and building a strong partnership that will stimulate Yuhuang Chemical Inc.’s future growth.”