Exxon planning multibillion expansion in Baytown

Exxon Mobil Corp. is planning a multibillion-dollar petrochemical expansion at its Baytown complex to take advantage of the country’s increasing supplies of natural gas.

“The proposed investment reflects Exxon Mobil’s continued confidence in the natural gas-driven revitalization of the U.S. chemical industry,” the company said in a statement.

The project would include a new ethane unit, which would provide ethylene feedstock for two new polyethylene production lines at the company’s nearby Mont Belvieu plastics plant. Polyethylene is used in a wide variety of consumer and industrial products.

Exxon Mobil joins other petrochemicals producers that have announced natural gas-fueled expansion plans in recent months. For example, Dow Chemical is expanding in Freeport and Chevron Phillips is building a new chemical plant in Baytown.

In its statement, Exxon Mobil also said the expansion could lead to significantly increased exports. “We believe the North American natural gas resource is abundant and can support both domestic energy needs as well as exports to the global market.”

Exxon Mobil has filed permit applications for its project and expects approvals to take about a year. A final decision on whether to do the project would come after government reviews are completed. The project would start in 2016.

The company says the project would create about 10,000 construction jobs. About 350 permanent jobs would be added to a workforce of about 6,500 full-time and contractor jobs in the Baytown area.