BP Completes Upgrade of South Carolina Petrochemical Facility

Release date: June 14, 2017

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Cooper River modernization begins new era of low-carbon manufacturing at site, highlighting BP’s commitment to the broader energy transition


Charleston, S.C. – As part of a $200 million program, BP has completed the upgrade of its petrochemical facility near Charleston, S.C., that will significantly reduce the site’s energy use and emissions, and allow it to produce a new line of low-carbon products for the first time in the U.S.

With the modernization project, the site will be able to reduce electricity use by 40 percent and cut carbon emissions by approximately 109,000 tons per year – equivalent to eliminating the electricity and heating emissions of about 2,000 typical U.S. households -- while also boosting overall production by 10 percent.

The improvements also will allow BP to produce PTAirTM -- a new low-carbon brand of purified terephthalic acid, a raw material used to make polyester, as well as PTAirTM Neutral, the world’s first certified carbon-neutral PTA, which will use carbon offsets like reforestation projects to help customers meet net zero-carbon targets. BP introduced both products in Europe in 2016 and now is bringing them to the U.S.

“This project is a major step forward for the Cooper River facility, making it one of the most efficient, environmentally conscious and cost-competitive in the industry, while also enabling it to produce one of the lowest-carbon products of its kind,1” said Luis Sierra, BP’s CEO, Global Aromatics. “We know that today’s ultra-competitive U.S. petrochemicals industry demands a relentless focus on innovation, safety and the environment – and at Cooper River and across the globe, we are rising to the challenge.”

The last milestone of the project, which created about local 400 construction jobs over more than two years, came with the recent start-up of a new state-of-the-art oxidation reactor, the largest in the U.S. The reactor is an important unit in the processing of PTA, which is found in a wide range of consumer goods, from fabrics to food and beverage containers.

BP’s global petrochemicals strategy is focused on pursuing a competitively advantaged portfolio through world-scale, low-cost facilities that use BP proprietary technology. In support of this strategy, BP invested to upgrade its Cooper River plant and a sister facility in Geel, Belgium, the largest two PTA-producing sites in the Americas and Europe, respectively. In 2015, BP also started up the Zhuhai 3 unit in Guangdong Province, China – the world’s largest single-train PTA production unit and one of the largest, most efficient PTA production units in the world.

About BP in the U.S.

Over the past 10 years, BP has invested $90 billion in the U.S. – more than any other energy company. BP is a leading producer of oil and gas and produces enough energy annually to light nearly the entire country for a year. Employing about 14,000 people across the country, BP supports more than 130,000 additional jobs through all of its business activities. For more information, visit www.bp.com/us.

Notes to editors:

  • BP Cooper River plant can produce an average of 1.4 million metric tons of PTA per year.
  • The Cooper River facility occupies 450 acres of its 6,000-acre forest and wetlands preserve.
  • On an average day, BP Cooper River employs 350 BP workers and contractors. 
  • An oxidation reactor produces terephthalic acid when oxygen in compressed air reacts with paraxylene in the presence of catalysts and solvents. The terephthalic acid then moves on to a purification unit where it is further processed into purified terephthalic acid (PTA).
  • In addition to PTAirTM, BP will also be launching PTAirTM Neutral, the world’s first certified carbon neutral PTA. PTAirTM Neutral will offer customers the opportunity to purchase a carbon-neutral product where associated CO2 equivalent emissions are mitigated through the investment in carbon projects providing equivalent CO2 benefits and delivering a net zero position.

1 Compared to the Global Warming Potential (100 years) per 1 kg PTA as published in the Environmental Product Declaration of the PET Manufacturers in Europe - February 2016.