Construction of Dow Chemical Co.’s world-scale ethylene production facility in Freeport, TX, is complete. The ethylene unit is in commissioning and expected to enter operation by mid-year, the company said.

Dow began construction in 2014. Project completion was reached within one week of the original projection.

“The Freeport ethylene unit is the cornerstone of our $6 billion investment in the U.S. Gulf Coast,” said Dow CEO Andrew Liveris. “Our growth investments leverage the advantaged shale gas supply available in the U.S., and represent thousands of new jobs and significant economic value, including exports of approximately 20% of our U.S. production.”

The production unit has a nameplate capacity of 1.5 million metric tons and is a “central component” of the company’s Gulf Coast investment program, designed to strengthen the competitiveness of its downstream, consumer-led businesses, Dow said. It will feed Dow’s derivative investments coming online throughout 2017 and 2018, which include:

● Enhanced polyethylene for high-performance flexible food packaging and personal hygiene applications;

● New specialty low-density polyethylene for industrial and supply chain packaging applications;

● Next Generation “NORDEL” metallocene EPDM (a type of synthetic rubber) for applications in the transportation, infrastructure and consumer durables end-markets;

● High melt index specialty and conventional polyolefin elastomers for high-performance flexible packaging, transportation and consumer markets; and

● Bimodal gas phase de-bottleneck to enable more offerings for high-performance pipe and fitting applications, as well as the cap and closure market.

Dow COO Jim Fitterling said the ethylene unit would bolster the company’s activities in the packaging, transportation, infrastructure and consumer care markets.

“Not only does this investment leverage Dow’s early-mover advantage in shale gas, but it will also fuel the industry’s broadest and most differentiated derivatives slate, featuring Dow’s proprietary catalyst and process technologies, to meet growing consumer demand throughout the Americas,” Fitterling said.

Dow’s Freeport site now has more than 4 million metric tons of olefins capacity, said Doug May, president of the hydrocarbons business.

Separately this week France’s Total said it is planning a joint venture with Borealis and Nova Chemicals to construct a $1.7 billion ethane steam cracker and a new polyethylene unit on the U.S. Gulf Coast.