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Exxon’s Baytown refinery to see big facelift

January 15, 2019

Exxon Mobil is starting a major maintenance overhaul at one of the nation’s largest oil refineries in Baytown that will spur thousands of temporary jobs and enable it to process more lighter crude oil from West Texas and elsewhere.

The Irving oil major started the planned shut down in January in what will be the Baytown refinery's largest improvement and maintenance program in the site's history, company spokeswoman Sarah Nordin said. The overhaul will create about 3,000 temporary contractor jobs, including mechanics, machinist and electricians.

The maintenance upgrades will allow the refinery to process lighter, sweeter crude oil, with the capability to produce an incremental 10,000 barrels per a day of jet fuel, Nordin added. Other maintenance work will improve the refinery’s environmental performance and competitiveness, she said.

Gulf Coast refineries have long been configured to process heavier crudes from Latin America, Canada and other oil producing regions. But the drilling boom in the Permian Basin and other shale oil field has produced a flood of light crude.

The Baytown refinery is among several Gulf Coast refineries undergoing uppgrades in recent years to better process light Texas crude to take advantage of lower-cost oil from the Permian Basin and elsewhere.

Exxon Mobil is one of the most active producers in the Permian Basin, with plans to triple total daily production to more than 600,000 oil-equivalent barrels by 2025 from its operations in the Permian and and New Mexico, according to a company announcement last year. The company plans spend more than $2 billion on transportation systems to support its Permian operations.

The shut down of the Baytown refinery will last several weeks and also allow Exxon to conduct maintenance and detailed inspections of equipment that is normally in continuous operation, Nordin said.

“Such maintenance is typically routine and critical to maintaining safe and reliable operations at our facilities,” Nordin said. “We carefully plan these activities and work to execute them safely and efficiently.”

Located about 25 miles east of Houston, the 584,000-barrel-a-day Baytown site is one of the country’s biggest oil refineries after Motiva’s Port Arthur refinery. Motiva is a subsidiary of Saudi Arabia’s national oil company, Saudi Aramco.

By Marissa Luck, Houston Chronicle