EPA gives nod for ExxonMobil’s Texas ethylene cracker project

The Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) for the US Environmental Protection Agency has approved a permit granted to ExxonMobil Chemical Co. to proceed with plans to build a natural gas-fired ethylene production unit at its existing olefins plant in Baytown, Tex., just east of Houston (OGJ Online, July 1, 2013; June 5, 2012).

The Washington, DC-based EAB rejected claims by Sierra Club that EPA Region 6 abused its discretion under the Clean Air Act when, in November 2013, it granted ExxonMobil’s Baytown project a prevention of significant deterioration permit for the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, according to a May 14 decision recently posted to EAB’s web site.

In striking down all four allegations of discretionary abuse alleged by Sierra Club, EAB upheld Region 6’s determination that the installation of carbon capture and sequestration as an add-on control technology would be too expensive, on a total cost basis, to be selected as the best available control technology for limiting GHG emissions from the proposed Baytown unit, according to the decision.

EPA finalized ExxonMobil’s PDS permit for the Baytown plant on May 14 as a result of the decision, which will allow the company to begin construction on the project, the agency said in a May 16 release.

EBA’s ruling on the GHG-related permit precedes by a day EPA’s May 15 proposal of heightened air emissions requirements for US refineries (OGJ Online, May 15, 2014).

ExxonMobil previously said it expected the Baytown project, which calls for construction of a 1.5-million-tpy ethane cracker at the complex to convert ethylene to premium polyethylene products for world markets, to be commissioned in 2016 (OGJ Online, June 5, 2012).

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