"We want to grow," he said. "We want to go to regions where we can leverage our proprietary technology."
Sasol has long turned coal, which is abundant in South Africa, into liquid fuels. It can also use the process to spin the carbon and hydrogen in natural gas into more complex hydrocarbons that fetch higher prices because of the high price of oil.
Other chemical companies have announced plans to expand operations in the U.S. or build new ones that use natural gas as a feedstock to take advantage of U.S. natural gas prices, which have been half or below what they are in Europe and Asia.
U.S. drillers have learned to unlock enormous amounts of natural gas from shale formations under several U.S. states, which has driven down the price and given companies confidence that the price could stay relatively low for years to come.
Royal Dutch Shell, which operates an enormous gas-to-liquids plant in Qatar, is also considering building a similar plant in the U.S.