Thanks to a $200 million modernization project completed in 2017, BP’s Cooper River Chemicals plant will be able to curtail its electricity use and carbon dioxide emissions, while increasing its total output of purified terephthalic acid (PTA), a BP-invented chemical feedstock.
More specifically, the project will allow Cooper River to reduce the amount of electricity it purchases from the grid by 40 percent, slash CO2 emissions by up to 110,000 tons per year and boost production of PTA by 10 percent. Cooper River also will be able to supply the U.S. plastic industry with PTAir Neutral, the world’s first certified carbon- neutral PTA, which uses carbon offsets such as reforestation projects to help customers meet net zero-carbon targets. BP introduced PTAir Neutral in Europe in 2016 and soon will bring it to the United States.
“Retailers and brand owners are seeking more environmentally friendly solutions that will reduce the carbon impact of their products, and they’re choosing brands that address those concerns,” says Luis Sierra, head of BP’s global aromatics business.
“We know that today’s ultra-competitive U.S. petrochemicals industry demands a relentless focus on innovation, safety and the environment — and BP is rising to the challenge.”
The company remains America’s largest producer of PTA, a key building block of clothing, home textiles, carpets, plastic bottles and thousands more everyday items. Indeed, BP’s Cooper River plant has the capacity to generate about 1.5 million tons of PTA each year — enough to make more than a billion children’s backpacks.
Located in a picturesque wilderness on the outskirts of Charleston, South Carolina, Cooper River celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2018.
Over the past four decades, the plant has compiled a distinguished record of conservation leadership, which its employees exemplify through their support for nearby wildlife initiatives.
Cooper River’s production facilities are surrounded by dense forests and wetlands featuring a rich ecosystem of plants and animals indigenous to the South Carolina Lowcountry, including longleaf pines, turkeys, white-tailed deer, wood ducks, bluebirds and red-cockaded woodpeckers.
The forests and wetlands serve as a vast outdoor classroom and nature preserve for local schools and community organizations, such as search-and-rescue 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 four years in a row.
“At Cooper River, we take enormous pride in our environmental stewardship and our commitment to safe, reliable operations,” says Plant Manager John Harvey. “We feel lucky to live and work in such a beautiful part of the country, and we feel a personal duty to protect our employees, our business partners and the local wilderness.”
BP also contributes to the communities around Cooper River by supporting science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education programs.
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 annual PTSD River Challenge, a 175-mile kayaking excursion in which combat veterans paddle through South Carolina waterways to raise awareness of post-traumatic stress and veteran suicide.
* Vendor figures for the year ended December 31, 2016. BP jobs figures as of June 30, 2017.