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Bilateral Chamber Member: Exxon, SABIC Pick South Texas Site for World’s Largest Ethylene Plant

April 19, 2017 | Dallas News

Petroleum giant Exxon Mobil Corp. says it wants to build the world’s largest ethylene cracker plant in San Patricio County in South Texas.

Exxon, with project partner Saudi Arabia Basic Industries Corp, ended months of speculation by announcing Tuesday it plans to build the $10 billion plant near Portland in the Corpus Christi area.

Other sites in Victoria and two Louisiana parishes were scouted. Company officials said the 1,300-acre parcel at Farm-to-Market Road 2986 and U.S. Highway 181 stood out. Its deep-water access and ready-made pipeline and railway infrastructure were too good to pass up.

“It has all the elements we wanted to see in a location to build our project,” Gulf Coast Growth¬†Venture executive Robert W. Tully said. Tully’s group is a local arm of Irving-based Exxon Mobil.

Exxon Mobil Chemical Co. president Neil Chapman and SABIC vice president and CEO Yousef Abdullah Al-Benyan were to make a formal announcement Wednesday morning in Portland.

Gov. Greg Abbott said the state is offering a combined $6.35 million from its enterprise fund for the project, which he hailed as the largest capital investment during his tenure to receive tax incentives. State legislators are threatening to kill the enterprise fund as part of their budget discussions.

When completed, the plant would be capable of producing 1.8 million tons of ethylene each year. The plant ideally would feed plants that produce monoethylene glycol and polyethylene. The substances are used to make polyester for clothing, bottles and construction materials.

The project is expected to create 600 permanent fulltime jobs, another 11,000 jobs during its five-year construction and inject more than $50 billion into the local economy during the first six years of operations.

Exxon plans to file for its permits with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality this month. The permitting process is expected to last at least a year. Construction will run about three years.

Tully said some “site preparation” — including erecting temporary buildings, road work and work on utilities — will happen at the parcel as early as fall.

Abbott praised the companies’ decision, calling it “a tremendous win” for both San Patricio County and the entire state.

“This record-breaking project illustrates that our business climate is exactly what leading and growing companies are seeking when investing in their future.”

San Patricio County and Gregory-Portland ISD each approved tax abatements for the project in separate votes in March.

Supporters of the project welcomed its potential to reinvigorate San Patricio County’s economy, which has struggled recently.

The county lost 851 jobs in the last three months of 2016 with the closure of Sherwin Alumina Co.’s plant near Gregory and a string of layoffs at Gulf Marine Fabricators in Aransas Pass.

The trend drove the county unemployment rate to 8.7 percent in February, from 6.7 percent a year earlier.

Iain Vasey, president/CEO for the Corpus Christi Regional Economic Development Corp., said the plant will prove instrumental in securing the area’s economic prosperity, while also lessening its over-dependence on the crude oil market.

“This project will provide so many high paying jobs in our area,” Vasey said. “We are ready to move to the next level of the economic development chain with this world-class project.”

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