ExxonMobil Chemical Co. has begun detailed engineering work on a project that could almost 1 billion pounds of annual capacity for polypropylene resin on the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Officials with ExxonMobil in Irving, Texas, said in a March 20 news release that the project would meet growing demand for high-performance, lightweight durable plastics. They added that a final decision on the investment, which would amount to several hundred million dollars, is expected later this year, and that the new facility could open as early as 2021.
Newfound supplies of shale-based oil and natural gas throughout North America have led to a construction boom for resins on the Gulf Coast. But most projects to date, including those from ExxonMobil, have added capacity for polyethylene resin. The proposed ExxonMobil project would be only the second PP expansion, joining a project from Braskem SA.
The new ExxonMobil PP unit would be able to make advanced PP products which can be used in high-performance automotive, appliance and packaging uses, officials said. The potential project will create more than 600 construction jobs at its peak and more than 60 permanent jobs.
They added that most PP made at the new unit would be aimed at customers in Asia and other emerging markets, rather than in North America. 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," ExxonMobil Chemical President John Verity said.
"Abundant supplies of domestically produced oil and natural gas have reduced energy costs and created new sources of feedstock for U.S. chemical manufacturing," he added. Supplying Asian markets, Verity said, "ultimately will spur new economic growth locally."
Advanced PP materials that would be made at the new unit can reduce vehicle weight, which helps improve fuel efficiency and reduces carbon emissions, officials said. PP resin "delivers performance and sustainability benefits to produce a wide variety of consumer products," plastics and resins vice president Cindy Shulman said. "It's safe, can be recycled and requires less energy to produce when compared with other plastics."
The new PP unit is one of 13 new facilities planned to grow ExxonMobil's chemical manufacturing capacity in North America and Asia Pacific by about 40 percent. Officials said that these investments, including two world-class steam crackers in the United States, will enable the company to meet increasing demand in Asia and other growing markets.