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Chemical Companies Rush to the U.S. Thanks to Cheap Natural Gas

Producers added almost 12,000 jobs in the 12 months through June
A Methanex team in Chile loads a shipment destined for Geismar, La., in June
A Methanex team in Chile loads a shipment destined for Geismar, La., in JunePhotograph by Methanex

Ships sailing north from Chile are bringing an unusual cargo to the U.S.: chemical factories. Methanex, the Canadian company that’s the world’s largest producer of methanol, is spending $1.1 billion to disassemble two of its Chilean factories and rebuild them in Geismar, La. The first plant is scheduled to open next year. A second will be relocated by early 2016.

Scores of other companies including ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Sasol plan to spend about $100 billion to build or expand chemical plants in the U.S., according to a tally kept by Dow Chemical, the biggest U.S. chemical maker by sales. Dow is spending $4 billion to build factories in Freeport, Tex., and reopen a plant in Hahnville, La., creating 500 manufacturing and 5,000 construction jobs. Five years ago the company was closing U.S. plants and moving production to the Middle East to gain access to cheaper raw materials and be closer to Asian markets.