The planned expansion at the ExxonMobil Olefins Plant in Baytown, Texas is expected to create 10,000 construction jobs and 350 permanent occupations.
The multi-billion dollar project has finally received the green light for construction after the EPA delivered a final notice of decision for the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) for greenhouse gas (GHG) construction permit for the plant.
The permit, which was initially issued on November 25, 2013 met conflict when an appeal was put forth to EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board. The petitioned appeal was denied Wednesday, however, as the EPA finalized the permit allowing construction to begin at the Exxon Mobil Plant.
In 2011, the EPA’s national GHG regulations went into effect. Now, any project that is expected to increase greenhouse gases is required to obtain an air permit. Since then, the EPA has finalized 37 GHG permits in Texas, proposed an additional 10 permits, and currently has over 21 additional GHG permit applications under review for proposed development in Texas.
“We are working to control greenhouse gas emissions and promote clean energy in the new projects coming to communities across Texas,” said EPA Regional Administrator Ron Curry in an EPA news release. “These projects show that economic development and environmental protection can go hand-in-hand.”
The Baytown complex has been in operation since the 1920s. The existing plant covers five square miles and incorporates a refinery as well as two chemical plants. The newest edition will serve as an ethylene production unit consisting of eight ethylene cracking furnaces and recovery equipment to produce polymer-grade ethylene (building block of plastics). Construction of the new addition will take around three years to complete, with an estimation of completion around 2017.
ExxonMobil Chemical Company president Stephen D. Pryor stated that, “ExxonMobil’s petrochemical expansion, enabled by growing supplies of shale energy, will create thousands of new jobs and boost the Houston area economy and tax revenues by nearly a billion dollars a year.”
The plant is already the largest integrated refining complex in the country and currently employs around 6,000 people.
The Baytown expansion is just another sign the shale revolution is alive and well. As Stephen Pryor stated, “This export-oriented project is a powerful example of how shale energy can revitalize the U.S. economy in an environmentally responsible manner”