ExxonMobil begins US Gulf coast ethylene expansion project

ExxonMobil Corp. has started construction on a multibillion dollar expansion at its Baytown, Tex., refining and petrochemical complex just east of Houston (OGJ Online, July 1, 2013; June 5, 2012).

Plans call for construction of an ethane cracker at its Baytown complex and associated premium product installations in nearby Mont Belvieu, Tex., ExxonMobil said.

The steam cracker will have a capacity of as much as 1.5-million tonnes/year (tpy) and provide ethylene feedstock for downstream chemical processing, including processing at two 650,000-tpy, high-performance polyethylene lines at the company’s Mont Belvieu plastics plant.

At the company’s Baytown olefins plant, contracts have been awarded to Linde Engineering North America Inc. and Bechtel Oil, Gas & Chemicals Inc. to build olefins recovery units, while Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding Co. Ltd. and Huertey Petrochem SA will construct the olefins furnaces.

At the Mont Belvieu plastics plant, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries will build the two polyethylene lines, with Jacobs Engineering Ltd. to oversee enabling works and interconnections at both locations, ExxonMobil said.

Dashiell Corp. and Wood Group Mustang will provide specialty contracting services as well, the company added.

Construction work is to begin immediately on the project, with product production scheduled to start in 2017, ExxonMobil said.

The project is made possible largely due to abundant, affordable supplies of US natural gas for energy and chemical feedstock, according to Steve Pryor, president of ExxonMobil Chemical Co.

“Shale development has provided US chemical producers a double benefit as an energy source and as a key raw material to make plastics and other essential products, creating jobs and economic activity across the value chain,” Pryor said.

The project will employ about 10,000 construction workers, create 4,000 related jobs in Houston communities, and add 350 permanent positions at the Baytown complex, according to ExxonMobil, which expects to increase regional economic activity annually by about $870 million and generate more than $90 million in additional annual tax revenues for local communities.

ExxonMobil Chemical said it also estimates polyethylene product exports could increase sharply as a result of the expansion.

The company received final regulatory approvals to proceed with the project in May (OGJ Online, May 16, 2014).

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