Gulf Coast Growth Ventures (GCGV), a joint venture of ExxonMobil and SABIC in San Patricio County, has helped put the Coastal Bend on the map as a prime destination for large-scale international investment.
The plant features the world’s largest unit for processing ethane, a component of natural gas, into ethylene, the primary building block of most plastics. Construction began in 2019 and the plant came online this year.
Paul Fritsch, president and site manager at GCGV, said the plant uses natural gas feed stock from oil and gas production in Texas basins.
“Very simply, we’re utilizing Texas’ natural resources,” Fritsch said. “We utilize a process called steam cracking, where we make a basic building block chemical called ethylene. And then we take that ethylene into polyethylene, which can be used in the production of everything from medical supplies and food packaging to agricultural film and building and construction materials.”
Fritsch noted that the area’s infrastructure, including nearby access to the Port of Corpus Christi, was vital to bringing in the material needed from start to finish on the project. He said the project’s focus was also centered on building inroads to the local community across numerous avenues.
“We’ve got about 600 total people working on site, about 400 employees, and we employ about 200 contractors,” Fritsch said. “We brought in a number of experienced employees from ExxonMobil, but we also focused on hiring locally, employing more than 200 people from the area.
“We also have focused locally on the future of the project, and Del Mar College is a large conduit to our workforce. We donated $1.5 million to Del Mar to create a process technology laboratory which provides equipment, training and teaching across many fields of industrial learning. We’ve also provided a number of scholarships to Del Mar, which are an investment in our future workforce.”
Fritsch said that investing in the local community will remain a priority as part of the project’s future endeavors.
“We have what we call a Good Neighbor Program,” he said. “That includes four pillars: environmental protection; health and safety; education; and quality of life in the community. Those define the focus of our activities.”
Fritsch noted that ExxonMobil received the Responsible Care Company of the Year Award from the American Chemistry Council for excellence and leadership in environmental, health, safety and security performance.
He also said one thing has stood out above all locally: “The hidden gem that maybe we didn’t think about as much when we were looking for locations has really been the people,” Fritsch said. “I’ve been doing this for 31 years and I’ve worked around the world, and I have never worked with an organization that had so much energy and enthusiasm and ownership for the work they’re doing. And I think that’s just a product of the hardworking people of the Coastal Bend.”
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