Occidental’s massive petrochemical plant comes online in Texas

The first of several new petrochemical plants coming online this year became operational this week when Houston-based Occidental Petroleum opened its new facility near Corpus Christi.

The $1.5 billion ethylene plant in Ingleside is a joint venture between Occidental’s OxyChem subsidiary and Mexico-based Mexichem. The facility, called an ethylene cracker, takes ethane from natural gas production and converts it into ethylene, which is the primary building block for most plastics.

The project is the smallest and first of several Texas Gulf Coast ethylene crackers being completed this year. Others are under construction in the Houston area by Exxon Mobil, Chevron Phillips Chemical and Dow Chemical.

The plant will churn out 1.2 billion pounds of ethylene a year that Occidental will turn into vinyl chloride mononers, which Mexichem will then convert into polyvinyl chloride to make PVC piping.

While the project included thousands of construction jobs, the plant only created about 150 permanent positions. The facility was built by The Woodlands-based CB&I.

The slew of petrochemical plants in Texas are the result of the cheap and ample shale gas supplies that serve as the feedstock for the facilities.