Texas’ Petroch…

Texas’ Petrochemical Boom Fuels Hopes and Concerns


The largest chemical complex in the Western Hemisphere resembles a city of pipes and stacks. And Dow Chemical, its owner, is spending more than $4 billion to make it even larger.
“In terms of dollars, this is the biggest expansion since we built the place,” said Earl Shipp, vice president for Dow’s Texas operations, who works out of the vast Freeport facility that dates to 1940.
More Texas chemical plants — a dozen, at least — are also moving forward with new projects. The hydraulic fracturing technology that sparked a drilling frenzy around Texas and the nation has proved a boon for the petrochemical industry, which is converting cheap and abundant natural gas into resins and polymers that go into items like synthetic clothing and cellphones. Experts say this represents the largest petrochemical expansion in Texas since the days of cheap oil in the 1980s.
But the growth comes amid concerns about future shortages of water and electric power statewide, as well as worries about the industry’s impact on air pollution in the Houston area.
Although the cheap natural gas presents an “enormous opportunity” for the petrochemical industry, “we want to be sure that as all of this activity takes off, it’s not creating a lot of bads” like water scarcity or air pollution, said Kenneth B. Medlock III, the deputy director of the Energy Forum at Rice University’s James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy.
Texas already includes the country’s largest concentration of petrochemical plants, with more than 200 manufacturing facilities, according to the Texas Chemical Council. The industry started in the decades after Texas’ first big oil discovery in 1901, and growth accelerated during World War II, when the Allies sought synthetic rubber and material for explosives.

Read more: http://www.texastribune.org/texas-energy/energy/texas-experiencing-biggest-chemical-boom-1980s/

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