Dow Chemical’s New Ethane Cracker Plant set for Freeport, Texas

by Duane Nichols on April 24, 2012

Dow Chemical to build new ethane cracker plant in Freeport (Texas) Dow Chemical will create up to 2,000 construction jobs and hundreds of permanent positions by building a Texas ethylene facility scheduled to open in 2017. The move comes as Chevron Phillips Chemical, Lyondell Basell and Shell Chemicals are examining similar U.S. investments. “Constructing this new ethylene cracker at Dow Texas Operations will create a long-term advantage for our downstream businesses and for our company as a whole, and the benefits will accrue not only to Dow but to the state and national economy,” said Dow Chairman and CEO Andrew Liveris. ICIS News (U.K.) (4/19), The Wall Street Journal (4/18), according to the SmartBriefs of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE).

Don Hopey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported on March 26th that these chemical plants bring with them a number of serious environmental problems:  “Such a plant is going to have nitrogen oxide and VOC emissions that play into ozone creation and airborne particulates that add to what is already in the area,” said Jeff Robinson, section chief for air permits at EPA’s Region 6 office in Dallas (Texas), who has extensive experience reviewing cracker facilities (27 of the country’s 44 crackers are in Texas). “Regulators will have to assess the air impacts from the facility when Shell sends a construction permit application to the state (for the Beaver County, Pennsylvania plant).”

Also, Shell has under study a $10 billion methane-to-diesel processing plant in Louisiana, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal on April 4th, as described on FrackCheckWV on April 11, 2012. This is based upon a similar Shell plant now being brought into production in Qatar, which is very much over budget (at a cost approaching $24 billion). Shell has another Middle Distillate Synthesis (MDS) plant in Bintulu, Sarawak, which uses methane (natural gas) to make fuels and specialty chemicals:

The Shell MDS plant is the first of its kind in the world and is the culmination of over 30 years research into the utilisation of alternative raw materials for the production of fuels and specialty chemicals. This fits well with the Shell Group emphasis on sustainable development. The synthetic fuels and specialty chemicals produced by the Shell MDS plant are unrivalled in terms of purity and paraffinicity.

Shell MDS technology converts natural gas to long chain paraffins which are subsequently either hydrocracked to produce liquid fuels or fractionated to produce chemical feedstocks and waxes. The use of non-associated natural gas as feedstock and the high selectivity of the conversion process ensure a consistency of quality unmatched by equivalent products derived from crude oil.

Shell MDS process incorporates state-of-the-art safety, energy conservation and environmental protection systems. The plant itself is completely integrated such that the only incoming raw material is natural gas and the only outgoing waste products are water and flue gas, which are regulated by highly efficient waste water treatment and flare system respectively.

So we can easily predict a thriving chemical industry world wide, using methane to make synthesis gas and using ethane to make ethylene, as intermediates to various fuels and “petrochemicals.”  But, who can predict the nature and extent of the environmental and infrastructure problems that will be visited upon the general public, mostly at the expense of the tax payers and to the detriment of the public health and welfare.


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Rudy Caparros December 13, 2012 at 5:34 pm

HazMat Experts and Firefighters have petitioned Dow Chemical and Union Pacific for safe rail tank cars for transporting chlorine. Secondary containment is a necessary improvement that must be implemented. See — PETITION C KIT for First Responders Comments.


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