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TPCO America Gears Up For Next Phase

Tianjin Topsino Imp & Exp Co.,Ltd | Updated: Mar 08, 2017

GREGORY — Officials for TPCO America Corp. say they're confident their massive $1.3 billion pipe-manufacturing plant under construction near Gregory will be operational by the end of 2017.

A 1 million-square-foot industrial facility sits at State Highways 35 and 361 on what was once acres of sorghum fields as far as the eye could see. It's here local operators meld scrap steel and hot metal into tons of seamless steel pipe, mainly for use in the energy industry.

While the plant is at least 12 months from completion, officials for the Chinese company say they are making pipes and have successfully developed a variety of pipe casing for customers in Canada.

"Things have been very exciting for us around here," said Robbin Goodman, a business operations specialist for TPCO America.

TPCO America is a subsidiary of the Tianjin Pipe (Group) Corp., which has been supplying seamless steel pipe to major international oil and gas companies for two decades, including those based in the Gulf Coast.

Its plant near Gregory represents the largest single investment by China in a U.S. manufacturing facility. Ground was broken on the 253-acre plant in 2011, and construction there has been steady.

Jennifer Armstrong, assistant operations manager for the facility, said construction at the plant would continue through 2016, with commissioning expected to get underway early next year. Commissioning is a phase of a project where equipment and processes are tested to verify if they function according to their design specifications or objectives.

Company officials expect commissioning to run four to six months.

For now, roughly 100,000 metric tons of pipe can be produced at the Gregory facility each year. Once the plant is finished, it will be capable of making five times that amount, Armstrong said.

In the meantime, local operators have managed to finish the first production of Tianjin Pipe Generation 2 (TP-G2), a proprietary thread that company officials are marketing for its Canadian market.

Landing that contract was crucial for the company in its efforts to establish a stronger footprint in North America.

"It's a significant milestone," Goodman said. "For us, it means the training of our local workforce has been truly successful in meeting global needs."

TPCO America is one of roughly a dozen international companies that have converged on the Corpus Christi area in recent years, attracted by the Eagle Ford Shale energy play.

Energy experts believe the formation contains about 20 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and more than 3 billion barrels of oil.

The TPCO plant will be powered by electricity and natural gas and will recycle water and retain stormwater for reuse.