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Pandemic slows progress on new PO/TBA plant

Large red cranes loom over LyondellBasell’s Channelview site as installation of the company’s propylene oxide, tertiary butyl alcohol plant’s largest pieces of equipment, such as this 25-story-tall, 601-ton distillation tower are being installed. Once in operation, the PO/TBA plant will be the largest of its kind in the world.

By Jada Mier

CHANNELVIEW – The LyondellBasell Plant hosted their Annual CAPLE State of the Plant last Thursday night, January 21, where community members, plant leaders, and media representatives discussed how the plant has held up in the midst of the pandemic. The meeting was moderated by Anne Gowan.

Plant Manager Chris Cain opened up the night explaining that 2020 has been a “challenging year.” In spite of the challenges though, Cain said, “I’m proud of how our plant, company, and people have dealt with the pandemic and still making sure that our plant is safe and successful.”

There was an update on the new PO/ TBA plant expansion project. Site Integration Manager Dean Hoffman gave a detailed status update. The new PO/TBA plant will be the world’s largest. Hoffman said that in April, due to COVID-19, the number of people working construction on the project decreased from approximately 1,600 contractors to 200 contractors per day. In late May and early June, LyondellBasell (LYB) began to increase the number of construction workers to pre-COVID-19 numbers. The project will peak in mid-2020 with approximately 1900 contractors. The new plant will be completed in December 2022.

Cain said that Lyondell wants to be a responsible good neighbor in the communities that they operate. On the health and safety front, in 2020 LyondellBasell’s total recordable incident rate put then in the top decile, with 7 recordable injuries. They completed 6,000 behavioral hours where employees can observe one another which includes contractors and watch for at risk behavior. There have been no significant illnesses with anyone at LyondellBasell who has contracted COVID. There have also been no spread of COVID at the sight as a result of work happening at the plant.

Incidents reportable to regulatory agency are tracked very closely. There were 20 environmental events that were tracked at LyondellBasell in 2020. There were four Level 2+ events where they lost containment on a vessel or lost containment on a pipe and it resulted in materials being exposed to the atmosphere at the site.

Chris Cain said that in 2021 they are focused on continuing to improve their health safety and environmental performance as well as move forward with the OP/TBA project. There is need for employee growth and development as well as maintenance efficiency.