Oil and gas giant ExxonMobil recently announced that it plans to expand its Baytown petrochemical complex near the Houston Ship Channel with a $2 billion investment. ExxonMobil announced on Thursday that it will expand the plant by building a new unit to make chemical compounds which give plastics more elasticity and flexibility. ExxonMobil is already expanding its manufacturing facilities throughout the Gulf Coast. The expansion of the Baytown plant is in addition to this “Growing the Gulf” initiative which began in 2017.
The investment will also build a new alpha-olefins plant. Olefins are compounds consisting of hydrogen and carbon. Alpha-olefins are highly reactive, which make them useful in various ways. Alpha-olefins are critical for the production of compounds such as isobutylene. The company noted that the investment is in anticipation of the global demand for chemicals surpassing the demand for energy within the next 20 years.
What Does this Expansion Mean for Baytown?
According to ExxonMobil, the $2 billion project will create 2,000 jobs during construction. The new additions are scheduled to begin operations in 2022, and Exxon has not revealed how many permanent jobs the expansion should create. However, Darren W. Wood, ExxonMobil Chairman & CEO commented that the plant will create “thousands more high-paying jobs.”
“Through the billions of dollars that we’re investing in the Permian Basin to increase oil production and the expansion at our operations along the Gulf Coast, our company is making significant, lasting contributions to the U.S. economy and the many communities where we operate,” said Woods.
More Workers Means Safety Is More Important Than Ever
The MobilExxon Baytown petrochemical complex has had numerous accidents throughout its existence, with the most recent one occurring just last month. The March 16 fire broke out at a hydrotreater in the facility and forced the refinery to cut back its gasoline production. Though no one suffered injuries in this accident, it’s a recent reminder that safety matters as thousands of additional workers will be working at the refinery during construction.
Plant accidents are devastating. Two recent fires at plants in the Houston area forced thousands of people to shelter in place, seriously injured two workers, and killed one. Since refineries handle highly volatile substances, any accidents are typically severe and could trigger an explosion. Additionally, petrochemical units are large and require workers to construct them from considerable heights. So, as the $2 billion project begins, safety must receive prioritization in the parts of the plant which are already in operation as well as in the new parts under construction. The lives of thousands of workers depend on this plant’s safe operation and construction.