ExxonMobil Corp. has begun detailed engineering work on a potential U.S. Gulf Coast project to expand polypropylene manufacturing capacity by up to 450,000 tons/year, with a final investment decision (FID) due by the end of 2018.

The proposed facility, which could start up as early as 2021, would take advantage of abundant domestic natural gas and meet growing demand for advanced polypropylene products used in automotive, appliance and packaging applications.

If it were to move forward, the potential project would create more than 600 jobs during peak construction and more than 60 permanent jobs. No information was included on where the project would be sited or its estimated cost.

“ExxonMobil is well positioned to take advantage of the growing global demand for higher-value products, in both North America and the high-growth Asia Pacific region,” said ExxonMobil Chemical Co. President John Verity. “Abundant supplies of domestically produced oil and natural gas have reduced energy costs and created new sources of feedstock for U.S. chemical manufacturing.

“Most of our planned investment in the Gulf Coast region is focused on supplying emerging markets like Asia with high-demand products, which ultimately will spur new economic growth locally.”

The potential investment is one of 13 new facilities on the drawing table to build ExxonMobil’s chemical manufacturing capacity in North America and Asia Pacific by about 40%. The chemical expansions are key to the company’s Growing the Gulf initiative.

A 1.5 million ton/year ethane cracker underway in Baytown, southeast of Houston, is mechanically complete, with startup on track before midyear. In addition to the Baytown cracker, ExxonMobil and joint partner Saudi Basic Industries Corp. have proposed a petrochemical complex near Corpus Christi, TX, to include the largest capacity cracker in the world, a 1.8 million ton/year facility. An FID has not been made.

Meanwhile, proposals to add more petrochemical processing on the Gulf Coast continue to gain steam.

The Energy & Minerals Group (EMG) has agreed to help jumpstart American Ethane Co.’s (AEC) proposed ethane export terminal planned for the Gulf Coast that could produce up to 10 million metric ton/year (mmty). EMG plans to create a portfolio company to source and supply up to 480,000 b/d from various U.S. midstream companies and producers. No other details were provided.

“The agreement contemplates that EMG will construct new export facilities or partner with other operators to expand existing export facilities and associated midstream supply infrastructure,” the Houston-based investor said.

EMG’s anticipated supply and financial investment is expected to support three conditionally binding 20-year agreements that AEC has executed to supply 7.2 mmty of ethane to three ethane-to-ethylene cracker projects in China, the first of which was signed with Nanshan Group in November during the Trump administration’s trade mission.