Oxane Materials’ plan to close its Van Buren manufacturing plant caught local officials by surprise.
Earlier this year, the Houston-based company’s president, Keith Coker, said Oxane would produce a new "OxThor" proppant product for use in high-pressure, high temperature wells at the Van Buren plant at 3003 Industrial Park Road.
When Oxane opened in Van Buren in 2010, the company which produces proppants for the energy exploration of natural gas and oil sector said it would initially invest $15 million in the Van Buren plant.
In late 2011 the company said it had plans to invest up to $100 million in Van Buren and possibly employ 350 by the end of 2013.
That expansion never fully materialized and Van Buren Mayor Bob Freeman received a letter Tuesday from Coker notifying Oxane would close the local plant Jan. 23.
The closure will result in the loss of an estimated 70 jobs.
"Please be advised that on Jan. 23, 2015, Oxane Material, Inc. expects to permanently close its business operations located at 3003 Industrial Park Road, Van Buren. … The result of this action will result in the termination of employment for all employees working for the Company at this location," Coker wrote.
Jackie Krutsch, executive director of the Van Buren Chamber of Commerce, said this was both unexpected and disappointing.
"We had no prior knowledge of any planned closing," she said. "Oxane Materials has been an important part of the community since opening here in Van Buren."
Freeman told The City Wire that he was shocked at the news. Prior to the letter, there was no hint of problems at the company.
"We received notification this morning that Oxane Materials expects to close the facility in Van Buren on Jan. 23, 2015. The news was completely unexpected. Oxane has been a vital part of our community and we have been proud to be the home of their operations. It is most unfortunate for their employees and the families affected and our thoughts and prayers go out to them," Freeman noted in a statement.
Krutsch said the chamber has not received information on the details of the closure.
"We will work closely with all parties as more information becomes available regarding the circumstances of this closure," she said.
Oxane 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. The technology was first developed at Rice University. Company officials have 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.