OLD OCEAN — Petrochemical industry leaders Friday gathered in Old Ocean to celebrate the opening of two new polyethylene units they said will support hundreds of permanent local jobs.
The units, owned by Chevron Phillips Chemical Co., sit on what was a cow pasture four years ago, said Ron Corn, the company’s senior vice president of petrochemicals.
The 500,000 metric tons of polyethylene pellets the units are expected to produce annually will cater to the rising demand for plastics that stems from the expansion of a middle class around the world, Corn said.
On the supply side, the availability of cheap domestic natural gas created an opportunity for a polyethylene production facility of this scale to operate economically on the Texas Gulf Coast, he said.
“Eighty percent of the costs of manufacturing the product is the feedstock cost,” Corn said. “In 2001 through 2004, 2005 with high natural gas prices, we were not competitive in making polyethylene,” Corn said.
Ethane, a component of natural gas, is one of the feedstocks used for polyethylene production.
Plastic pellets produced by the units have already been loaded onto railcars and shipped to customers, said Mark Lashier, Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. president and CEO.
“Today is the day to celebrate success,” Lashier said. “We didn’t celebrate success when we announced mechanical completion. We didn’t celebrate success when we started commissioning activities this summer, and we didn’t even celebrate success in September when we began starting up these facilities.
“We wanted to make sure that we could look everyone in the eye and say that we accomplished our mission and we’re selling pellets to our good customers out there, and that’s what we’ve done,” he said.
Altogether, the two units required more than 18,000 tons of steel and 13 miles of…