The Livingston Group, L.L.C.

The Mega Project: Paving the Long Road from Africa to the USA


An African chemicals and energy company recognized an opportunity to expand its coal-to-liquid technology to a global scale. After making efforts to move into China and India, the company set its sights on the US. They purchased a small chemical operating facility in the southern US and began exploring the possibility of domestic coal-to-liquid production.

At that point, coal-to-liquid conversion was an entirely new concept in America, and permitting for such a venture included navigating the intricacies of federal, state and local governments. Complexities mounted — and then, the market changed.

At the end of 2007 and in early 2008, the coal industry was greatly affected by regulatory changes. Additionally, the price of oil plummeted from more than $100 a barrel to about $25 a barrel. The shale-to-natural gas phenomenon became a more attractive alternative. Based on these changing market conditions, the company made the decision to shift from coal-to-liquid production to natural gas-to-liquid. The construction of a world-scale petrochemical complex ensued. At the heart of the project: an ethane cracker that, upon completion, will produce 1.5 million tons of ethylene annually, most of which will be converted into specialty chemicals for markets including aeronautics and defense.


In more than a decade of working with the company, The Livingston Group has assisted this client on a daily basis. Among the highlights:

  • Helped obtain their initial 404 wetlands permit. This permit application was more than 23,000 pages in length — and its printed version stood about 6 feet tall.
  • Constantly engaged on the legislative and executive side of this project, with a continuous presence on the Hill on behalf of the client.
  • Played a part in the engagement of a US state government, making sure proper concessions and incentives were in place and that promises were fulfilled.
  • Secured proper visas for the company’s team to accommodate their international staff.
  • Guided them through federal, state and local regulatory processes to ensure compliance.


The company’s $10+ billion project is on schedule to open in 2019, adding 800 new permanent employees and 1,000 contract workers to the local economy and a new resource for ethylene, which is in high demand globally. This plant represents one of the largest foreign investments in the United States and will positively impact the economy for years to come.