Exxon Mobil has completed a nearly $500 million refining expansion at its Beaumont campus with plans for much more oil refining and plastics growth to come at the complex.
Ongoing is construction of a plastics plant and, next year, Exxon Mobil may launch another refining expansion that would place the Beaumont refinery among the nation’s largest. Large crude refining expansions are rare in the U.S. because domestic fuel demand is relatively flat.
The idea is for the refinery to process much more of the lighter crude produced from areas like West Texas’ booming Permian Basin. Most Gulf Coast refineries are designed to primarily process heavier grades of crude often imported from countries like Canada and Venezuela. Those refineries were configured well before the recent shale boom that’s triggered record volumes of U.S. oil production.
Exxon Mobil said Wednesday it finished and started up its new unit that will produce another 45,000 barrels a day of ultra-low sulfur gasoline and diesel fuels to meet rising federal standards.
“The new unit at Beaumont will further enhance our competitiveness and strengthen Exxon Mobil’s position as a leader among Gulf Coast refiners,” said Bryan Milton, president Exxon Mobil fuels and lubricants.
Exxon Mobil is currently building a new plastics plant at the Beaumont hub designed to manufacture 650,000 metric tons a year of polyethylene, the world’s most common plastic. The plastics expansion is slated for completion next year.
Exxon Mobil just finished a plastics expansion at its Mont Belvieu plant near Houston to churn out 1.3 million tons of polyethylene a year, and Exxon Mobil is considering another plastics expansion at its nearby Baytown campus.
The polyethylene is made from cheap and abundant ethane that’s produced along with oil and natural gas in Texas shale and other regions. Most of the plastic is being exported to emerging markets in Asia.
As for the larger crude oil refining expansion in Beaumont that also would benefit from Texas shale, Exxon Mobil said it is currently conducting engineering and design work and may commence construction next year once a final decision is made. The project would be finished in 2022, the company said.
The Beaumont refinery currently processes less than 400,000 barrels of crude a day while the nation’s largest, Motiva Enterprise’s Port Arthur Refinery, can churn through about 635,000 barrels daily. Exxon Mobil’s largest U.S. refinery is in Baytown with about 580,000 barrels of capacity, but Beaumont could soon rival such peers.
This article first appeared on the Houston Chronicle – an Energy Voice content partner. For more from the Houston Chronicle click here.