Exxon Mobil in Major Expansion of Baytown Texas Plant to Use Ethane

by Duane Nichols on March 13, 2013

ExxonMobil Baytown Complex

ExxonMobil to Produce Polyethylene from Ethane at Baytown Texas

From the Article by Emily Pickrell in FuelFix: General, March 5, 2013

Exxon Mobil Corp. is expanding the capacity of its Baytown complex to boost its capacity for turning natural gas into petrochemical building blocks, a multibillion-dollar upgrade the company believes makes sense even if gas prices rise from lows that have driven a manufacturing surge.

Irving-based Exxon Mobil is the largest U.S. producer of natural gas and plans to leverage its bounty into a huge expansion of its petrochemical facilities in the Gulf Coast, including the new steam cracking capacity at its Baytown plant. It did not put a precise price tag on the work.

Construction of the plant will take about three years, and Exxon Mobil says the plant could be up and running by the end of 2016. “The project is going to be an expansion of our Baytown project, which is already the largest integrated refining complex in the country,” said Steve Pryor, president of ExxonMobil Chemical Co. Technological advances in recent years have helped producers unlock natural gas and oil from tight shale formations.

The expansion will increase the Baytown plant’s capacity to convert ethane, a natural gas liquid, into the chemical building block ethylene, and from that to produce the plastic polyethylene.

One expected advantage is that the plant will produce a premium-grade polyethylene, which Pryor said can be used to make lighter and lower-cost packaging products with smaller environmental footprints. The expanded plant also will enjoy economies of scale, Pryor said, and will use new environmental technology that will allow it to operate within already permitted emission limits.

Exxon Mobil bought XTO Energy in 2009 for $41 billion, a big bet on the shale gas boom. It’s looking for ways to protect that investment as gas hovers around a relatively low price of $3.50 per million British thermal units.

Exxon Mobil, the nation’s largest chemical manufacturer, had 2012 profit of $3.9 billion in its chemical division on revenue of $61 billion, Pryor said.

The company estimates that the plant expansion will create 10,000 area jobs during its construction and will create about $870 million of economic activity annually. The Baytown complex now employs about 6,000 workers, and the expansion will add 350, the company said.

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S. Thomas Bond March 13, 2013 at 3:32 pm

As we say in West Virginia, “There you go.” Dirt and damage left in the hinterlands, added value in the established industrial center, not far from poppa.

Reminds me of coal burning electrical plants which are never found where the electricity is consumed, but back in the coal fields. And I recall that, it takes less energy to move the coal in trains to cities than it does to move the electricity in wires to the cities.

So, the big spenders are willing to pipeline our ethane to Texas, to Louisiana, and to Canada where it can be processed into petrochemicals. Or, pipeline the natural gas where LNG tankers can take to overseas. Who is the winner here and who is left holding the bag?

The corporate giants are getting their pockets filled and the rural residents of WV are getting broken down roads, dangerous truck traffic, polluted streams, toxic fumes, and noises thru the night.


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