What we know about history of ExxonMobil Baytown plant

By Joel Eisenbaum - Investigative Reporter, Matt Aufdenspring - Digital Managing Editor

HOUSTON - A massive fire burned Wednesday afternoon at the ExxonMobil Baytown Olefins plant.

Here's a look at what we know about the facility at 3525 Decker Drive in Baytown.

Facility facts

According to the ExxonMobil website, the Baytown "complex is located on approximately 3,400 acres along the Houston Ship Channel, about 25 miles east of Houston. It is comprised of four manufacturing sites, including one in nearby Mont Belvieu, and a global technology center. Employing a workforce of approximately 7,000, the Baytown area sites are highly integrated which makes the plants and products more efficient." 

"The Baytown Olefins Plant, which began operations in 1979, is one of the largest ethylene plants in the world," its website reads.

The company said it completed in 2018 "a multi-billion dollar ethane cracker at the Baytown Olefins Plant. The cracker has a capacity of 1.5 million tons per year, and provides ethylene feedstock to two new high-performance polyethylene lines at Mont Belvieu Plastics Plant that started up in 2017."

Fines

The company was fined more than $40,000 earlier this year for "failing to prevent unauthorized emissions and failing to limit highly reactive volatile organic compounds emissions to 1,200 pounds or less per one-hour block period."

In 2017, ExxonMobil was fined more than $21 million for Clean Air Act violations at its Baytown plant. The lawsuit, originally filed in 2010 by Environment Texas Citizen Lobby, Inc. and the Sierra Club, claimed unauthorized air emissions from the entire Baytown complex between October 2005 and September 2013.

The plant was fined in 2015 for air pollution reporting from 2012 and 2013.

OSHA violation

In 2017, a worker at the Olefins plant was burned and the company was fined.

An employee who was changing a filter on Aug. 26, 2003, was severely burned in a flash fire and died 25 days after the incident in the hospital.

The subsequent federal investigation led to a $4,500 fine, citing a violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, "The employer did not furnish employment and a place of employment which were free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees."

Previous issues at ExxonMobil

In March 2019, a fire broke out at the ExxonMobil facility at 5000 Bayway Drive in Baytown. There were no injuries.

A contractor working at the construction project site at the ExxonMobil Olefins Plant in Baytown was killed in November 2014.

In 2012, a fire broke out at the facility on Bayway Drive.

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