PORTLAND, Texas — Operations at the Gulf Coast Growth Ventures plant in Portland actually began a couple of months ago, but the plant's start-up was celebrated Wednesday at an event at the Portland Community Center.
Exxon and Saudi Arabian company SABIC decided to work together on a petrochemical facility in the United States around eight years ago, and leaders from both companies were among the 300 or so people at Wednesday's event.
They networked with local leaders and members of the community before a ceremony that featured short films, speeches and a ceremonial ribbon-cutting.
“We’re here to celebrate the start — the completion of the project and the start-up of the plant," GCGV President and Site Manager Paul Fritsch said. "And we’re really here to thank our neighbors. You can’t do something this big without becoming part of the community."
Some people who've lived in homes near the plant since well before its construction are upset about it. A common complaint is the light the plant puts off at night from flaring.
Fritsch says the process of making monoethylene glycol and polyethylene can create gases that need to be safely burned off.
He says company leaders have been in contact with the plant's neighbors before and after it was built, and they will continue to be.
“The most important thing for us is that our neighbors understand what we’re doing and why we’re doing it," Fritsch said. "And from the very beginning, we’ve tried to really be open and transparent about that.”
"Windshield tours" of the plant from buses were also offered at the ceremony, giving the closest look and access to date.
The tour highlighted a number of the plant's features. They include a barrier around the massive ground flare that the tour guide said was meant to block the light from the flares reaching nearby homes.
The plant also features safety devices like a 20-million gallon water tank that would give firefighters six-hours worth of water to work with even if the plant were cut-off from the Corpus Christi water system for any reason.
Fritsch says Exxon and SABIC decided to build the GCGV plant in the Coastal Bend for several reasons.
Access to resources like natural gas from West Texas was a big plus, as was access to railroads and the Port of Corpus Christi to ship their finished product.
But with the plant employing over 600 people, he also credited the decision to the availability of workers here who got the education they need to work at the plant through our local colleges like Del Mar and the Texas A&M University campuses in Corpus Christi and Kingsville.
“You can’t do something like this without very skilled and talented people," Fritsch said. "And with the facilities and the training and the people available here — just amazing workforce down here in the Coastal Bend.”