Echoes Of The Past In Today’s Petrochemical Building Boom

From Houston Public Media: 

ExxonMobil's refinery in Baytown is one of the nation's biggest

Dave Fehling / StateImpact

ExxonMobil's refinery in Baytown is one of the nation's biggest

The Texas petrochemical industry is in the midst of its biggest expansion in decades. That’s thanks largely to the availability of cheap natural gas, used both for fuel and as a raw material. It’s hardly the first time the region has seen this scenario.

Barbara Shook is senior reporter-at-large for Energy Intelligence Group. She spends much of her time these days covering the construction boom in the petrochemical industry. Last week, she was on hand at a ceremony at ExxonMobil Chemical’s Baytown plant, where a multi-billion dollar expansion is already under way.

“This is my second petrochemical boom,” Shook says. “I watched the first one in the early 1950s from my father’s ’48 Ford pickup truck. He was the construction superintendent on a power plant for a big petrochemical plant in East Texas. That one was also fueled by natural gas and natural gas liquids, just like this one is.”

Texas had just passed a ban on flaring, which forced producers to find new markets for gas.

There are currently two multi-billion dollar projects underway in Greater Houston besides ExxonMobil’s. They include expansions of ChevronPhillips’ Baytown facility, as well as the Dow Chemical complex in Freeport.



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