ExxonMobil has commenced operations at its multibillion-dollar petrochemical expansion at its massive Baytown complex.
The years-in-the-making project includes its new crown jewel ethane cracker that’s designed to churn out billions of pounds a year of ethylene, which is the primary feedstock for the world’s most common plastics.
The ethane cracker, which includes eight 23-story-tall furnaces, takes cheap and abundant ethane that’s found in shale natural gas liquids and converts it into ethylene. Easy access to the affordable shale ethane is the primary reason Exxon is continuing to expand its Texas petrochemical facilities.
The project was delayed a few months in part by flooding that occurred during Hurricane Harvey nearly a year ago.
Last year Exxon Mobil completed two new plastics facilities at its nearby Mont Belvieu plastics plant that turns the ethylene from Baytown into thinner and stronger versions of the common plastic, polyethylene.
The Baytown expansion includes producing an additional 1.5 million metric tons of ethylene a year, or 3.3 billion pounds, while the Mont Belvieu plant can manufacture an extra 1.3 million tons of polyethylene now. Most of that plastic is headed for export to emerging markets in Asia and elsewhere.
“Our new ethane cracker will help us meet the growing global demand for high-performance plastic products that deliver key sustainability benefits such as lighter packaging weight, lower energy consumption and reduced emissions, further enhancing our competitiveness worldwide,” said John Verity, president of ExxonMobil Chemical Company.
“The abundance of domestically produced oil and natural gas has reduced energy costs and created new sources of feedstock for U.S. Gulf refining and chemical manufacturing while creating jobs and expanding economic activity in the area,” he added.
The project represented Exxon Mobil’s first major U.S. chemical expansion in more than 15 years.
Exxon Mobil also has a joint venture with the Saudi Arabia Basic Industries Corp., known as SABIC. The companies plan to build a $10 billion chemicals and plastics complex just north of Corpus Christi.
This article first appeared on the Houston Chronicle – an Energy Voice content partner. For more from the Houston Chronicle click here.