South African energy and chemical company Sasol Limited has confirmed that it will build an $8.1 billion ethane cracker and derivatives complex in the United States, as the company looks to take advantage of cheap and plentiful supplies of U.S. gas.

Site preparation is under way for construction of the petrochemicals complex at the company's existing site in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

The facility, which will triple Sasol's U.S. chemical production capacity, is anticipated to start operating in 2018.

David Constable, president and CEO of Sasol, said that the U.S. Gulf Coast's robust infrastructure for transporting and storing abundant, low-cost ethane was a key driver in the company's decision to proceed with the project.

The planned ethane cracker will produce 1.5 million tons of ethylene every year, with around 90 percent of its output converted into various commodity and high-margin specialty chemicals. As well as the cracker, the complex will include six chemical manufacturing plants.

Sasol will also invest a further $800 million to make infrastructure and utility improvements around the Lake Charles site.

Fluor Technip Integrated, a joint venture between Fluor Corporation and Paris-based Technip, has been named as the primary engineering, procurement and construction management contractor for the project. WorleyParsons will support Sasol's project management team.