ExxonMobil Makes Third Investment in Beaumont, Expands Polyethylene Plant Production

Exxon Mobil's (XOM) Beaumont, Texas investments continue to grow as the world's largest oil company is expanding its polyethylene plant.

XOM shares were lower in afternoon trading, down by 1.3% immediately after announcing plans at 1 p.m. on Monday to add a new production unit at its Beaumont plastics plant.

The new unit at the facility will increase capacity by 65%, approximately 650,000 tonnes per year. Currently, the plant is capable of producing one million tonnes per year.

"The availability of vast new supplies of U.S. shale gas and associated liquids for feedstock and energy is a significant advantage that enables expansion to meet strong global demand growth in polyethylene," ExxonMobil said in a statement.

(Polyethylene is the world's most common plastic, used for film, packaging, containers; while natural gas is used to produce plastics).

Construction of the new unit is underway, and startup is expected in 2019.

The Beaumont polyethylene development builds upon ExxonMobil's expansions of its Mont Belvieu Plastics Plant in Texas, where two polyethylene units are also being added.

"Combined, this multi-billion-dollar investment will increase the company's U.S. polyethylene production by 40%, or nearly two million tonnes, per year," Exxon said in a statement.

However, deciphering how much the polyethylene business contributes to Exxon's overall financial results is unclear as it is never broken out separately. It also was not mentioned in the company's latest earnings conference call with analysts.

That being said, the Beaumont plastic facility expansion will create 40 new permanent jobs and "generate $20 billion in economic activity in the first 13 years of operation," the company stated citing Impact Data Source estimates.

It also marks ExxonMobil's third significant investment in the Beaumont area in the past year-and-a-half. In 2015, the company expanded the refinery's crude refining capabilities; and, earlier this year, ExxonMobil announced construction of a new unit to increase domestic supply of ultra-low sulfur gasoline and diesel.

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