ExxonMobil Launches LAO Production


ExxonMobil on Tuesday announced the startup of two new chemical production units at its Baytown, Texas manufacturing facility, including a linear alpha olefins unit with 350,000 tons per year production capacity that marks its entry into the market for LAO, which is the building block chemical for polyalphaolefins.

The Elevexx-branded LAO products are also used in plastic packaging and other applications, ExxonMobil said in a press release. They are also building blocks for surfactants and drag reducing agents, which allow crude to flow through pipelines more efficiently.

PAO molecules are made by assembling chains of octane, decene and dodecene – olefin hydrocarbons with chains of eight, 10 and 12 carbon atoms respectively – to attain the molecular weights and performance targets desired by customers. High-viscosity PAOs are typically used as lubricant additives, while low-viscosity PAOs are used as base stocks.

Previously ExxonMobil was the only one of the top three PAO producers – Chevron Phillips Chemical and Ineos – without backward integration into decene and dodecene LAO feedstock, according to industry observers. Merchant sellers of LAO include Shell Chemical, Ineos and Chevron Phillips Chemical.

According to Lubes’n’Greases Base Stock Plant Data, ExxonMobil has about 301,000 t/y of PAO production globally, including 50,000 t/y at the Baytown plant, 146,000 t/y at its Beaumont, Texas site, and 105,000 t/y at its Gravenchon PAO plant. The company so far has not said if it plans to use the Baytown LAOs in its PAO business.

Ineos has about 245,000 t/y PAO production capacity globally, including 120,000 t/y at its plant in Chocolate Bayou, Texas and 125,000 t/y capacity at its plant in Feluy, Belgium.

Chevron Phillips Chemical has about 130,000 t/y PAO production capacity among three locations – 63,000 t/y at its site in Beringen, Belgium, 58,000 t/y at its Baytown plant and 9,000 t/y via a toll manufacturer in Pasadena Texas.

ExxonMobil’s other new Baytown unit can produce 400,000 t/y of Vistamaxx and Exact-branded polymer modifiers, which the company said can enhance the performance of a broad range of chemical products used to make automotive parts, construction materials, hygiene and personal care products and various packaging products.

The $2 billion Baytown expansion, originally announced in May 2019, is part of ExxonMobil’s long-term growth plants to deliver higher-value products from its U.S. Gulf Coast refining and chemical facilities.

During construction, the project supported more than 3,500 jobs, and when fully operational, will directly employ 200 more people.