Located in a picturesque wilderness on the outskirts of Charleston, South Carolina, BP’s Cooper River Chemicals plant is America’s largest producer of purified terephthalic acid (PTA), a key building block of clothing, home textiles, carpets, plastic bottles and thousands more everyday items.
BP invented PTA — a chemical feedstock used primarily to make polyester products — and today its Cooper River plant has the capacity to generate about 1.5 million tons’ worth each year. That’s enough PTA to make more than 1 billion children’s backpacks.
Recent upgrades at Cooper River reflect BP’s wider effort to drive the low-carbon energy transition. In 2017, the plant completed a $200 million project that will significantly reduce its energy use and emissions, and prepare it for the launch of a new line of low-carbon products.
With the improved equipment and systems, Cooper River will be able to reduce electricity use by 40 percent and cut up to 110,000 tons of carbon emissions per year — which is the equivalent of eliminating the electricity and heating emissions of around 2,000 U.S. households — while also boosting overall production by 10 percent.
“The upgrades we’ve made improve safety, reliability and efficiency, while enabling our facility to produce one of the lowest carbon products of its kind in the world,” says Plant Manager John Harvey. “This investment also makes our plant one of the most environmentally friendly and cost competitive in the industry.”
Beyond its business operations, Cooper River has a distinguished record of conservation, which its employees exemplify through their support for nearby wildlife.
The plant is surrounded by dense forests and wetlands with a rich ecosystem of plants and animals indigenous to the South Carolina Lowcountry, including long leaf pines, wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, wood ducks, bluebirds and redcockaded woodpeckers. The forests and wetlands serve as a vast outdoor classroom and nature preserve for local schools and community organizations, such as search-andrescue dog training teams and veterans groups.
Cooper River has received recognition for its environmental programs from the Wildlife Habitat Council, the National Land Conservation Conference and other nature groups.
Meanwhile, the plant’s safety efforts have earned it the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce Workplace Safety Award for three consecutive years.
BP contributes to the communities around Cooper River by, among other things, supporting education programs focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
For example, the company donated money to help build a new interactive STEM lab for a neighboring elementary school, and it supported the construction of a new fabrication lab at Laing Middle School, which in 2017 was named America’s top STEM-focused middle school.
In addition, Cooper River employees support the PTSD River Challenge, a 125-mile kayaking excursion in which combat veterans paddle through South Carolina waterways to raise awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder and veteran suicide.
* Vendor figures for the year ended December 31, 2016. BP jobs figures as of June 30, 2017.