The successful startup of ExxonMobil and SABIC’s Gulf Coast Growth Ventures (GCGV) world-scale manufacturing facility in Gregory, Texas, was celebrated on March 23 in grand fashion that matched the expansiveness of the facility itself.
Operations at the GCGV joint venture actually began on January 20, but the plant’s startup was celebrated by more than 300 attendees at the Portland Community Center in which community and company leaders were invited to a bus tour of the 1,350-acre petrochemical facility, a networking reception, several video and live presentations, and an official ribbon cutting.
ExxonMobil and SABIC have partnered together for 40 years on petrochemical projects, including two long-standing joint ventures in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, but GCGV is their first joint venture in the Americas.
“We’re a 50/50 joint venture in which ExxonMobil operates the plant here in the United States and the products go to both Exxon and SABIC,” said GCGV Site Manager Paul Fritsch.
The new facility, which officials say is roughly the size of 1,000 soccer fields, produces materials used in packaging, agricultural film, construction materials and clothing. The operation includes a 1.8 million metric ton per year (MMT) ethane steam cracker, two polyethylene units capable of producing up to 1.3 MMT per year, and a monoethylene glycol unit with a capacity of 1.1 MMT per year.
The resounding theme flowing throughout the presentations during the evening celebration was community support.
“The relationship we have with this community has helped us through a tentative time in our project and we will help each other moving into a future successful business in this important region,” said SABIC vice-chairman and CEO Yousef Abdullah Albenyan.
ExxonMobil and SABIC together donated $1.5 million to local Del Mar College to create a process technology lab. “That’s putting back into the future of the workforce,” said Fritsch. “There’s a lot of grey hairs running around in our business and we’ve got to get young kids excited [about industry].
“At GCGV, we’re starting in the schools. I’ve got employees who volunteer at science fairs and robotics clubs and we’re hoping folks go from there to engineering or trade schools and apprenticeship programs,” said Fritsch. “Del Mar College has great programs that feed right into the petrochemical and refinery industries.”
Fritsch said many things factored in when choosing this area in the Coastal Bend for the GCGV. “We looked at over 10 locations when trying to figure out where to do this and at the end of the day, this location met all the requirements. We were looking for a workforce that could do both the construction, as well as long-term operation, and the workforce here is absolutely fabulous.”
Logistically, Fritsch said, the proximity to the Eagle Ford Shale and Permian Basin provided the needed feedstocks, as well as the area’s deep-water port that was used to bring in some of the modules, and is used, along with the railway, to take products out. “All of these things came together to say ‘this is the one,’” Fritsch added.
Construction, which began in the third quarter of 2019, created around 6,000 high-paying construction jobs and the facility now directly employees more than 600 people.
“Our construction team did an amazing job of really reaching people’s hearts and minds [when it comes to safety],” said Fritsch. “They encouraged the craft workforce to bring their families out and let them see what mom and dad do when they go to work and I think this really motivated people to think even harder about safety and the choices they’re making on the job.”
We fostered this with very strong encouragement for reporting near losses and incidents, and it just ballooned with a strong since of ownership, Fritsch said.
US Rep Michael Cloud, who spoke during the evening celebration and represents the area’s district said, “At a time like this in our country, this project stands as an example of what we can do when industry and community come together.”
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