HOUSTON (June 1, 3:10 p.m. ET) — ExxonMobil Corp. is reviewing a possible expansion that could add two massive new polyethylene production lines at its plant in Mont Belvieu, Texas.
Houston-based ExxonMobil has filed permit applications with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality that would allow for the two new PE lines, as well as construction of a new ethane cracker in Baytown, Texas, company spokeswoman Margaret Ross said in a June 1 e-mail.
The new PE lines would have combined annual capacity of almost 3 billion pounds.
“This proposed expansion would enable ExxonMobil Chemical to economically supply the rapidly growing demand for high-value polyethylene products which are used in a wide range of consumer and industrial applications,” Ross said. “ExxonMobil Chemical estimates exports could increase significantly as a result of the expansion.”
The review and approval process should take about a year, and that the company would decide at that time if it wanted to proceed with the project.
Ross cited new natural gas discoveries as a reason for the proposed expansion. Natural gas can be used as a feedstock to make ethane, which is then converted into ethylene.
“The proposed investment reflects ExxonMobil's continued confidence in the natural gas-driven revitalization of the U.S. chemical industry,” Ross said. “Domestic energy production continues to lift the U.S. economy and grow jobs at a pace faster than the national average.”
The expansion – which if approved would open in 2016 – could create 10,000 temporary construction jobs and 350 permanent jobs. Several firms – including Dow Chemical Co., Formosa Plastics Corp. USA and ChevronPhillips Chemical Co. LP – already have announced North American expansion plans resulting from the natural gas boom.