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Site work underway for ExxonMobil plant

Gulf Coast Growth Ventures has opened its Orientation Training Center on the site of ExxonMobil’s ethane cracker plant near Gregory. While waiting for air quality permits to begin constructing the plant, the company is preparing the site with ongoing road work and utility installation. Courtesy photo

ExxonMobil has been busy on the site of its proposed new $10 billion plastics plant in San Patricio County. While waiting for air quality permits from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality before it can begin constructing the actual plant, ExxonMobil and partner SABIC (Saudi Arabian Basic Industry Corporation) have been working on needed infrastructure.

Land has been cleared, roads built, and utility lines installed. Known as Gulf Coast Growth Ventures, the project now has a training center in operation on site as well.

“We are proud of our team and what they have been able to accomplish in the past year,” said Bill Cheek, president of Gulf Coast Growth Ventures, adding that a community advisory group has been established to help with any problems that arise from the site work. “We want to be sure we are doing the right thing for residents.”

ExxonMobil and SABIC have been partners in the plastics manufacturing industry for 35 years. The ethane cracker plant near Gregory-Portland is set to be the largest of its kind in the world. Three derivative units on the site will produce monoethylene glycol and polyethylene. Monoethylene is used in latex paints, automotive coolants, and anti-freeze. Polyethylene is a building block for film, packaging, bottles, containers, and pipes.

Its proximity to Gregory-Portland High School, which is about a mile away, and its potential threat to wetlands in the area led to local opposition. Portland Citizens United and the Lone Star Sierra Club formally contested the air quality permit application in a public hearing in Corpus Christi in September. The company hopes to receive approval from the environmental agency sometime in 2019.

The state environmental agency considering the air quality applications granted wastewater permits for the plant in July.

At the moment, only the Orientation Training Center is operating on the site. Cheek stressed the importance of building a solid training program for a plant that expects to employ about 6,000 constructions workers and 600 permanent site employees. He cited safety on the site as a number one priority.

“We elected to do the orientation and training ourselves,” Cheek said. “Safety is very important to us. We can show workers how to fail in a safe way. And they can bring in their spouses and children so they can get a feel for what we do here. They can see how we work safe.”

The training center is a joint project with Del Mar College, which helped set up the program.

The 1,300-acre site is located on the south side of Texas 181 and west of FM 2986 west of Gregory. Downtown Corpus Christi is about 12 miles southwest of Gregory.

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