Ascension and St. James parishes are in the running for a "world-scale" petrochemical complex that ExxonMobil Chemical Co. and the Saudi Basic Industries Corp. are considering building in either Louisiana or Texas.
An ExxonMobil spokeswoman said the company is working with state and local governments to identify a site. The company has met with officials from Ascension and St. James parishes, as well as leaders from Victoria and San Patricio counties in Texas. Victoria is within two hours' drive of Corpus Christi, Houston and Austin. San Patricio is near Corpus Christi.
“This investment being considered would have a transformational economic impact for the region and entire state of Louisiana,” said Adam Knapp, president and CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber.
Knapp said the facility would be a "generational opportunity" that would further fortify the strength of the south Louisiana petrochemical industry globally.
ExxonMobil Chemical and SABIC have worked together for 35 years in major chemical joint ventures in Saudi Arabia.
If developed, the Gulf Coast joint venture project would be located near natural gas sources as a feedstock and include a world-scale steam cracker and derivative units. No price tag or timeline were disclosed by the companies.
Both companies are early in the process of conducting studies and obtaining necessary permits, so it's too early to speculate on when a decision will be reached on building the plant, said Margaret Ross, a spokeswoman for ExxonMobil Chemical.
“We have the capability to design a project with a unique set of attributes that would make it competitive globally," said Neil Chapman, president of ExxonMobil Chemical. "That is vitally important as most of the chemical demand growth in the next several decades is anticipated to come from developing economies.”
SABIC is based in Saudi Arabia and ranks among the world’s top petrochemical companies and producer of polyethylene, polypropylene, advanced thermoplastics, glycols, methanol and fertilizers. The company operates in more than 50 countries across the world with 40,000 employees.
SABIC doesn't have any manufacturing facilities in Louisiana or Texas, although its North American headquarters are in Houston. The company does have plastics manufacturing plants in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, and Burkville, Alabama.
The company operates a styrene monomer manufacturing plant in Carville that is a joint venture with Total Petrochemicals. SABIC also owns a share of the Williams Olefins plant in Geismar
ExxonMobil Chemical Co. has manufacturing capacity in every major region of the world, serving large and growing markets. More than 90 percent of the company’s chemical capacity is integrated with large refineries or natural gas processing plants.
The company has chemical plants in Baton Rouge, Chalmette, Plaquemine and four facilities in Texas.
Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson would not discuss the potential plant, citing competitive reasons. Mike Eades, president and chief executive officer of the Ascension Economic Development Corp, also would not discuss the project.
Ascension has several mega-sites capable of being home for a large-scale petrochemical plant. The 1,000-acre Schexnayder site at 2000 Gautreau Road in Donaldsonville and the 987-acre Pointe Sunshine site on La. 18 near Donaldsonville have been designated as Louisiana Economic Development Certified Sites. Certified sites are development-ready industrial locations that have completed a rigorous review process from LED and URS, an independent engineering firm.
The parish also is working to create a 17,000-acre industrial zone along the west bank of the Mississippi River, near the rural community of Modeste. Ascension is running out of room on the east bank of the river.
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Steve Nosacka, the mayor of Gramercy and economic development consultant for St. James Parish, said there are sites that would suit a large industrial development, but the parish has not focused on getting sites certified in advance. Instead, St. James officials prefer to bring landowners and potential tenants together and let them reach a deal to sell property. Nosacka said that strategy works in the parish, since the large tracts of land generally have single owners.