ENV 712A: Hydrocarbons: Production to Policy

Visit to ExxonMobil Research and Training Center & Tour of ExxonMobil’s Baytown Refinery
by -- October 14th, 2013


  • Art Smith: CEO of Triple Double Advisors

Prior to entering Duke, I spent a lot of time reading and writing about integrated refinery complexes in the Gulf Cooperation Council. However, from my office in Washington, DC, I never had the opportunity to visit one.  Before leaving for Houston, Dr. Pratson told us that one of his main objectives of the program was for students to get an understanding of the magnitude of the oil & gas industry. ExxonMobil’s Baytown Refinery did just that… it’s massive.

The Baytown Refinery is the second-largest refinery in the U.S., occupying 2,400 acres along the Houston Ship Channel with a capacity of 584,000 barrels per day. To no surprise, the refinery is the largest employer in Baytown. (The largest refinery is Motiva, located at Port Arthur, TX, owned by Shell Refining and Saudi Aramco.)

Our tour mainly consisted of driving through the facility, which housed massive production facilities for nearly all derivatives of oil. To some, the refinery might be a sight for sore eyes. The exterior of the pipes were rusted orange and smog billowed from the smokestacks. I on the other hand, looked at the maze of piping and was struck by the complexity. I thought the engineering and design was beautiful, and I was in awe that these facilities could take crude oil and make wax coatings used in food and olefins used in plastic production.

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