It’s hard to imagine what the skyline off US Highway 181 in Gregory looked like just a few short years ago. Now it’s stacked with massive modules and construction equipment as Gulf Coast Growth Ventures prepares to get the ExxonMobil-Sabic plant up and running.
Which is coming sooner than later.
Gulf Coast Growth Ventures Plant Manager Paul Fritz paid a visit to commissioners last week to deliver an update on plant operations and how soon manufacturing will begin.
“Things are moving along very, very well,” Fritz said. “We are receiving equipment and installing it ahead of schedule.”
For those who live in the area, he said that traffic there is as bad as it’s going to get with about a five minute wait when workers get off.
“We’re really pleased in the way we work collaboratively with the county, with the cities and TxDOT to make the flow of people a lot better than other construction projects I’ve been around,” he added. “So, hats off to everyone working together for that.”
Speaking of working together, Fritz also said that all the local industries – Cheniere, voestalpine, Chemours and OxyChem, among others – have created a community advisory panel to keep the public in the loop. Fritz said that while industry has tried panels in the past, they ultimately simply fizzle out and disappear.
But not this time.
“We brought together our group of plant managers and started talking about the things that we need to do to make sure we’re acting consistently as industry to be a good neighbor,” he added. “We’ve actually hired a professional facilitator to help make this work consistently.
“We can have that outreach from industry to community representatives, and we’ll be starting that here in the first quarter.”
In October of last year, the ExxonMobil-Sabic facility got their emergency response department up and running – complete with state-of-the-art fire fighting and lifesaving equipment. With that department up and running, they have created a mutual aid agreement with the county and other industries to ensure that, should something go wrong in the area, they are all equipped to handle it.
Fritz said that 26 of the company’s 35 vessels have arrived with the final one expected around April or May. With all equipment coming in and being installed, it’s time to start flipping the switch and turning some things on.
“We’re at the point where we actually start to commission equipment, and actually start to bring some equipment up and online,” Fritz said. “You’ll start to see steam coming out. And rather than the beep-beep-beep of construction equipment backing up, you’ll start to hear a low steady hum.”
Fritz said that will start here in the next week or two, as they bring their first small boiler online, followed by three big ones coming online around February.
He added the entire plant itself is coming along ahead of schedule with the first polyethylene plant looking to be operational by September with the others coming online every month through the end of the year.
“We hope to have them all up by the end of the year,” Fritz said. “If not at the end of the year, then shortly after.
“We’ll continue to keep the community updated through our Facebook page and I’ve been trying to make the rounds to various city council meetings and commissioner court.
“We’re really pleased to see all this happen and you will definitely start to see some things change.”