Westlake Chemical Geismar site

Westlake Chemical is considering a $450 million expansion of its vinyl production plants in Geismar. 

Houston-based Westlake Chemical is considering a $450 million expansion in Geismar.

Westlake Chemical has not yet made a final determination to move forward with the expansion, according to the company, but it told investors that there's a growing market opportunity for its products. The expansion would be completed by 2023.

Westlake Chemical plans to add more machinery to increase its volume of chlorine, vinyl chloride monomer, known as VCM, and used in production of polyvinyl chloride, which is PVC, a type of plastic often used in pipes.

There are three plants on the Geismar site. A chlor-alkali plant produces about 700 million pounds of chlorine and 770 million pounds of caustic soda each year. The VCM plant can produce 850 million pounds each year, while the PVC plant can produce about 730 million pounds of the product annually.

"Global demand for both PVC and caustic soda is expected to exceed the limited global capacity additions," according to the company's 2018 annual report.

Westlake Chemical already employs 191 workers in Ascension Parish. The proposed expansion would create 15 new jobs and 200 support construction jobs, according to an advance notification to the Louisiana economic development department. 

In exchange, the company would be eligible for the Industrial Tax Exemption Program, which could offset 80% of its property taxes for up to 10 years. Westlake Chemical would need to obtain approval from the state and local leaders before the incentives would kick in.

The market value of real and personal property taxes for the company's Geismar site is nearly $600 million, according to the Ascension Parish Assessor’s office. The assessed value, or what the company will pay taxes based on, was about $89 million due to existing tax abatements, records show. 

The company sought incentives last year for a $140 million expansion that was expected to wrap up this year. 

In March, the Geismar site was shut down unexpectedly after there was a chlorine leak and several workers were sent to the hospital. 

The company also operates at three other sites across the state, including Sulphur, Plaquemine and Westlake. 

Email Kristen Mosbrucker at kmosbrucker@theadvocate.com.