The project is part of ExxonMobil’s Baytown chemical expansion project and the company’s Growing the Gulf initiative.

The new ethane cracker is designed to provide ethylene feedstock to the newly commissioned performance polyethylene lines in Mont Belvieu plastics plant.

Each of the polyethylene line has a production capacity of 650,000t per year.

Claimed to be one of the largest polyethylene plants in the world, the Mont Belvieu plant has manufacturing capacity of about 1.3 million tons per year.

ExxonMobil Chemical Company president John Verity said: “Our new ethane cracker will help us meet the growing global demand for high performance plastic products that deliver key sustainability benefits such as lighter packaging weight, lower energy consumption and reduced emissions, further enhancing our competitiveness worldwide.

“The abundance of domestically produced oil and natural gas has reduced energy costs and created new sources of feedstock for U.S. Gulf refining and chemical manufacturing while creating jobs and expanding economic activity in the area.”

In addition to ethane cracker plant and polyethylene lines, the chemical expansion project involves installation of eight new steam cracking furnaces as well as a new cooling tower and flare system.

Together, the Baytown ethane cracker and Mont Belvieu plant have created more than 10,000 construction jobs, 4,000 jobs in nearby communities and 350 permanent positions.

In an effort to expand manufacturing and export capacity in the US Gulf Coast region, ExxonMobil is strategically investing in new refining and chemical-manufacturing projects.

The firm’s $20bn Growing the Gulf expansion program comprises major chemical, refining, lubricant and liquefied natural gas projects at proposed new and existing facilities along the Texas and Louisiana coasts.

ExxonMobil said that the investments under the expansion program started in 2013 and are planned to continue through at least 2022.

Earlier, ExxonMobil said it has partnered with SABIC to build a jointly owned petrochemical complex in San Patricio County, Texas. The complex would include a 1.8 million ton-per-year ethane cracker.