TEXAS CITY — Those who drove by Dow Chemical’s Texas City chemical plant during the past two months have no doubt seen a lot of activity. Crews are finishing work on tearing down several units that have been out of commission for about 10 years.
The demolition work may signal the end of those units, but it may also signal potential growth for the site, which was built by Union Carbide in the 1940s.
“Several structures, including columns and a water tower are being taken down,” Dow spokeswoman Tracie Copeland said. “(Also) an old hydrocarbons plant that was shutdown in 2004 is being demolished.”
Ryan McGill, the site manager in Texas City, said in addition to the “cleanup” of outdated on site assets, the company is also expanding at the Texas City site.
“You will see throughout the course of the year a lot of work,” McGill said. “On the northern half (of the plant) we will be executing Phase 2 of a multimillion-dollar asset life extension project.”
The second phase should be done by the end of the year and a third phase of work will begin in 2015, McGill said.
That means Dow plans to spend a lot of money to refurbish to its units. The Texas City plant has 21 different product lines and is home to the world’s largest C4 alcohol — also known as butyl alcohol — processing plant.
And more could be coming. That’s because after years of downtown in the chemical industry, there is expansion taking place across the globe.
The American Chemistry Council estimated that the chemical industry saw a 1.3 percent job growth last year and expects more jobs to be added as chemical production expansion continues through 2018.
That is in contrast to annual declines in chemical plant employment between 1999 and 2011.
It’s expected that the U.S. Chemical industry will invest about $61 billion in capital spending by 2018 while worldwide capital spending will top $618 billion within the next four years. That is twice the investment that was seen in 2010, the group said in a 2013 year-end report stating that “American chemistry is back in the game.”
More than 135 new chemical production projects valued at more than $90 billion have been announced within the last two years, the chemical council said.
That’s driven in large part by the easy access to natural gas supplies in the United States. Dow is taking advantage of the ever-improving economics.
“Our business is healthy and stable,” McGill said. “Dow is doing a tremendous amount of investment here on the Texas Gulf Coast, and we continue to work with Dow and the city at evaluating development here on some of this brownfield space that we have made.”
That would include projects that aren’t necessarily on-site processing or production.
“We have an excellent site for expansion with land, energy, steam, water, waste disposal and other infrastructure resources in place,” Copeland said. “Under the current market conditions, this makes the Texas City site an attractive place to invest.
“We are looking forward and preparing our site for the right growth opportunity, bringing more economic value to this community and ensuring the long-life of our Texas City operations is important to us.
“Our position is not limited to grow organically but open to work with fence line partners which complement the company growth strategy.”