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France’s Total invests in $1.7 billion Texas energy site

PARIS — French energy company Total is launching a multi-billion-dollar petrochemical joint venture in Texas as it tries to profit from the "business-friendly environment" under the current U.S. administration.

The plan announced Monday in Paris is the company's largest-ever investment in petrochemicals, and part of its strategy to benefit from cheap shale gas in the U.S. and President Donald Trump's support for the energy industry.

Total will partner with chemical companies Borealis and Nova to build two new units on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

One is an ethane steam cracker in Port Arthur, Texas that would convert natural gas into chemicals used for plastics and other materials. Total would provide the initial $1.7 billion for that operation.

The other is a new polyethylene plant in Bayport, Texas, also for making plastics. The cost of that plant is still being worked out among Total, Borealis and Nova, said Bernard Pinatel, president of Total's refining and chemicals. Overall, he said, the project would be worth several billion dollars and Total would hold 50 per cent of it.

Total says the venture, which depends on regulators' approval, would start in 2020 and create at least 1,500 local jobs.

"We want to take advantage of the business-friendly environment" to boost Total's 60-year presence in the U.S., CEO Patrick Pouyanne said in a statement.

Pinatel told The Associated Press that the French company is not scared away by Trump's "America first" policies, and instead was encouraged by an "American administration favourable to everything that touches the energy sector."

Total SA employs 6,000 people in the U.S. in the oil, gas and solar activities.

Angela Charlton, The Associated Press

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