A production unit is being added to ExxonMobil's Beaumont polyethylene plant east of Houston fueled by unconventional natural gas to boost capacity by 65%, or 650,000 metric tons/year, as growth for high performance plastics accelerates, the supermajor said.
Construction of the new petrochemical unit has begun at the plant, where current polyethylene production capacity is 1 million metric tons/year (mmty). Startup is expected in 2019.
"The availability of vast new supplies of U.S. shale gas and associated liquids for feedstock and energy is a significant advantage that enables expansion to meet strong global demand growth in polyethylene," said ExxonMobil's Cindy Shulman, vice president of the plastics and resins business.
As U.S. unconventional gas and oil production has grown, ExxonMobil has poured billions into facility investments along the Gulf Coast to expand existing refining and chemical capacity. The expansions have in turn stimulated economic growth and created jobs. Investments in the next few years "and beyond" could create more than 28,000 temporary jobs in construction and more than 1,200 permanent jobs, according to ExxonMobil.
The Beaumont project builds on supply advantages created by ExxonMobil's expansion of its Mont Belvieu Plastics Plant in Texas, where two similar polyethylene units are being added. Combined, the multi-billion dollar investment would increase the company's U.S. polyethylene production by 40%, or nearly 2 mmty, making Texas the largest polyethylene supply point for the company.
"ExxonMobil is committed to continuing investments in its world-class, integrated facilities," Shulman said. "We combine our state-of-the-art production expertise with a first-class technology organization, which enables us to offer innovative polyethylene products for applications such as flexible food packaging that increases product shelf life and safety."
The Beaumont expansion project is to employ 1,400 construction workers and create 40 permanent jobs upon completion, as well as generate $20 billion in economic activity in the first 13 years of operation based on 2015 Impact Data Source estimates.
"We're part of the growth in an area that is primed for new business," said ExxonMobil's Jason Duncan, who manages the Beaumont polyethylene plant. "The expansion of the polyethylene plant is now ExxonMobil's third significant investment in the Beaumont area over the past 18 months, the impact of which will benefit the local economy in the years to come."
ExxonMobil had already planned to expand the Beaumont refinery's crude refining capacity, and earlier this year it began constructing a unit to increase domestic supply of ultra-low sulfur gasoline and diesel. The integrated operations in Beaumont, which include refining and chemical manufacturing, employ 2,100 people.