Eagle Ford Shale Fuels Manufacturing Expansion for Coastal Bend

Find out why international and domestic manufacturers are flocking to the Coastal Bend to take advantage of its affordable energy and world-class port.

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When Austria's largest steelmaker, voestalpine, was scouring the planet for a suitable location for its new plant, the firm found exactly what it was looking for in the Coastal Bend Region. Matthias Pastl, now Communications Chief for the firm, led the search for a site that had an abundance of natural gas, logistics connections and a location in a region with a stable government. "It quickly became clear the Coastal Bend was going to be the top location for doing business generally and for our particular business," Pastl says. The $800 million plant has received its greenhouse gas permit, clearing the way for construction of a facility that will convert iron oxide pellets into hot briquetted iron used in steel production, creating 150 permanent jobs when it enters production in 2016. The plant will double its efficiency by running on minimal natural gas and using seawater in its cooling process. Good Energy The manufacturer was just one of the multinational firms drawn to low energy costs to the Coastal Bend, where the manufacturing industry is also expanding to meet the growing demand for machinery, turbines, pipes and other energy-intensive infrastructure needed by oil and gas producers. China-based TPCO America Corporation is hiring workers as well as building offices and pipe finishing and rolling structures for its plant that will supply seamless pipe for use as casings for oil and gas wells. The $1 billion plant, which will employ 600 to 800 people when it begins full operations in 2016, is the largest single investment by a Chinese company in the U.S. Dignitaries from China’s Tianjin Commission of Commerce recently signed a memorandum of understanding in a formal ceremony with elected officials from the communities that straddle Port Corpus Christi. The pact represents the communities’ willingness to work together and exchange ideas and technology as the plant takes shape. Italy-based M&G Resins also received EPA clearance to start building its $900 million PET plant that will make it the world's largest single-line producer of resins used for food plastic containers. The plant is adjacent to Port Corpus Christi and its expanded railyard, and will have access to service from three railroads, according to Mauro Fenoglio, Global Manufacturing Director and Vice President of M&G Resins. Supportive Climate Excellent support from local and state officials has played a key role in getting these investments off the ground. "We had outstanding assistance from the economic development office," Fenoglio says. "They supported the project from the beginning and put it under the direct attention of the secretary and Gov. Perry." The oil and gas boom in the Eagle Ford Shale play has also spurred growth among smaller manufacturers that supply energy firms. Both Hooten Industrial and TNT Pipe Services are investing in new six-figure steel production plants in Corpus Christi to handle rising demand for infrastructure from petroleum producers. At Ingleside, Occidental Chemical's planned $1 billion ethylene cracking plant will produce chemicals used to make PVC resin and piping systems, drawing on the abundant, nearby source of natural gas. The Celanese plant in Bishop (formerly Ticona Polymers) has applied for the necessary environmental construction permits for an $850 million methanol unit, with an expected annual capacity of 1.3 million tons annually, according to Global Communications Manager Travis Jacobsen. The methanol unit will utilize abundant, low-cost natural gas in the U.S. Gulf Coast region as a feedstock for making plastics and would benefit from existing infrastructure at the site. "The Coastal Bend region is an ideal place for Celanese for a number of reasons, including access to natural resources and logistics, the highly educated workforce, and a favorable business climate," Jacobsen says. "Celanese also has a strong relationship with the local community – our partnerships with local community leaders, county and city officials, and business leaders have been very meaningful for many years."

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Phil Newman is a writer, editor, public relations specialist and social-media addict who serves as chief content strategist for NewManifest Communications in Franklin, Tenn. Phil's... more

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Fri, 10/27/2017 - 19:55