IHS CERAWeek: Shale gas prompts ExxonMobil to invest in Baytown plant expansion

Climbing unconventional gas and gas liquids production is leading to a chemical industry renaissance, stimulating new investment in the chemical business by ExxonMobil Corp. and other companies, said Stephen D. Pryor, president of ExxonMobil Chemical Co.

For instance, ExxonMobil Chemical has filed permits for a multibillion-dollar expansion at its Baytown, Tex., integrated refining-chemical producing sites. Feedstock and energy supplies will be coordinated with ExxonMobil’s upstream business.

The project would convert ethylene from a new world-scale steam cracker to premium polyethylene products to serve world markets.

Plans call for construction of a 1.5 million tonne/year ethane cracker at the complex as well as two 650,000 tpy polyethylene production lines nearby its plastics plant in Mont Belvieu, Tex. (OGJ Online, June 5, 2012).

ExxonMobil also has filed a state permit application with the Texas commission on Environmental Quality and is working with the US Environmental Protection Agency on a federal permit.

The project is estimated to provide 10,000 jobs at the peak of construction.

In remarks made Mar. 5 at IHS CERAWeek in Houston, Pryor said major capacity additions have been announced that convert ethane to ethylene for the first time in more than a decade.

A recent study by the Federal Reserve showed a capacity increase of 33% by 2017, which is the equivalent of six to eight new world-scale steam crackers.

“While all announced projects may not materialize, the US industry is clearly poised to expand its position as a leading petrochemical producer,” Pryor said.

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