The Port Arthur News
PORT NECHES —
Standing at a podium under a giant tent outside Huntsman Port Neches’ offices off Spur 136 Dan Kemp looked across a sea of faces with a smile.
As master of ceremonies it was Kemp’s task to welcome the crowd of local and county representatives as well as introduce a group of dignities seated to his left. Golden bladed shovels and hard hats waited the group nearby.
The reason for the gathering was the groundbreaking ceremony for the plants $150 million expansion project on Tuesday.
“This is the first significant expansion at the site since 1994,” Kemp, director of manufacturing at the site, said.
Huntsman is preparing for the expansion of its ethylene oxide manufacturing capacity at the Port Neches facility by adding a third EO unit. The expansion will increase the EO capacity by more than 25 percent or 265 million pounds per year. Upon completion, the Huntsman Port Neches plant will be the largest single-site producer of EO in North America.
Peter Huntsman, chief executive officer of Huntsman Corporation, explained that the company isn’t competing with other companies but a global market with state owned companies like in China and Brazil that are heavily subsidized with much lower operating costs.
The investment in Port Neches shows the importance of the site not only for local jobs but for what it means to the global market.
Huntsman has recently traveled to Germany and the United Kingdom twice as well as India, Indonesia and Korea, he said.
“Your competition isn’t in Louisiana or other provinces but the global market,” Huntsman said.
With $11 billion in sales, about $500 million in spent per year around the world with one-third going to environmental health and safety and $300 million going to discretionary projects. Projects for 2014 and 2015 have already been committed to, he added.
“The Port Neches project is in excess of $150 million which is bad for the company but good for you,” he said with a laugh. Local wage inflation and purchases in the area bumped the project cost up from $125 million.
Stu Monteith, president Huntsman Performance Products Division called Tuesday’s groundbreaking a significant milestone for the company. In the past five years the company has invested millions of dollars in safety and environmental projects to keep up with standards and work to reach zero Occupational Safety and Health Administration reportable incidents.
Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick told the crowd that he and commissioners are excited about the project.
“We are extremely pleased to have Huntsman as corporate citizens,” Branick said. “Last year we saw the opening of the largest refinery in the U.S. at Motiva and this year with the expansion, Huntsman Port Neches will be the largest single-site producer of ethylene oxide in North America.”
Branick thanked Huntsman for being at the ceremony, for placing faith in the county and for the jobs that will be created.
The expansion project is expected to add about 325 local contractor jobs during the construction phase and upon completion is expected to add 10 full-time positions to Huntsman’s staff and an additional five to 10 contractor positions on site. The EO unit is slated for start-up in the second quarter of 2015.