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Posts published in August 2015

Four Corners is strategic passage for New ExxonMobil Baytown Refinery

HIGHLANDS – The roadways and small businesses at the corner of I-10 and Crosby-Lynchburg Road are known locally as “Four Corners” and this summer they have been their busiest ever, because this is the main route for huge refinery equipment to be shipped overland to a new ethane plant in Baytown, on Highway 330/Decker Drive.

Rotarians of the Highlands club heard about the new plant, and the extraordinary efforts to ship and erect the parts of the plant, from ExxonMobil representatives David Schertz and Connie Tilton, at their luncheon meeting last August 18th.

This new plant is only one of several refinery expansions taking place in the Baytown/Highlands/Mont Belvieu area, and expected to have permanent impact on the area.

Schertz explained that these projects will create 10,000 temporary construction jobs, over a 3 or 4 year period, and add 4000 new permanent jobs to the area, including 350 at this plant.

Economists have said that the new plants in the area will add $1 billion business, and create $90 million in local tax revenue.

The new plant itself is huge, as large as 5 Disney World parks, he said. The equipment pieces for the plant, furnaces, distillation towers, quench towers, were too large to transport on normal highways, so ExxonMobil and their contractors made a new “port” at Four Corners, where barges could be unloaded by crane, and “crawlers” could carry the pieces overland to the plant site. This meant closing Decker Drive and Crosby-Lynchburg for short periods, and building special “bridges” over some streams and canals, to get the equipment moved down the road.

Planning for the new plant had started in 2012, and most of the equipment had to be built overseas, because American plants no longer have the capability, Schertz said.

The plant consists of 4 main towers, and furnaces, that heat the feed-stock, natural gas from shale, to 1500 degrees, and then in the distillation towers cool and compress the ethylene molecules to -100 degrees. This is the process to convert ethane gas to ethylene, Schertz said.

The heavy equipment in the Olefins Recovery part of the plant has been moving through Four Corners most of the summer, starting in April, and ending by September of this year. 170 pieces will be moved, 36 of which must arrive by barge and moved by crawlers. The largest of these pieces, a “C2 Splitter” is 278 feet long, it weighs 800 tons, is 40 feet in diameter, and will take over two days to move.

The Olefins Furnace part of the plant had 8 steam crackers made in Thailand. 68 pieces will require transport from Cedar Bayou up Decker Drive in a contraflow direction to the plant site. This will start in October 2015 and finish in May 2016.

The heavy equipment was all made overseas, in countries such as China, South Korea, India, Thailand, and Europe.

ExxonMobil is also moving heavy equipment to Mont Belvieu as part of this expansion program, Schertz said. This equipment is unloaded at a Cedar Bayou landing, and moved on Highway 146 and FM565 during evening and night hours.

In conjunction with the new plant, ExxonMobil is working with the Texas Workforce Commission and Lee College, and nine total community colleges, to train operators for these plants. As many as 50,000 students may be involved, and benefit from these projects, over the next five years. Lee College has already seen an increase in enrollment or 20% to 30% in their process classes.

Two admit stealing from cars in Newport

NEWPORT – Harris County Sheriff’s Office East District Patrol deputies arrested and charged two local suspects for a string of car burglaries.

Deputies report that at about 2:00 a.m. on Sunday, August 09, 2015, Deputy T. Dowlearn, was patrolling on FM 2100 near the Crosby Village subdivision.

Deputy Dowlearn saw two young men walking down the center of the roadway wearing a backpack and pushing a bicycle. He stopped the two suspects, now identified as Frederick Butler (DOB 08/29/1997), and a 15 year old juvenile.

The area has had a history of thieft from vehicles dating back before the accussed were born.

Deputy Dowlearn inquired why Butler was carrying numerous telephone chargers in his hand.

The deputy asked Butler for consent to search his backpack, and was granted permission.

Inside Butler’s backpack were other phone chargers and devices for various cellular phones. Also stuffed into the Curious George Backpack were DVDs, DVD playing systems and a host of cell phone chargers.

Deputy R. Vitols arrived to assist him from Newport in his investigation. Deputy Vitols began searching the 6100 block of Lovage Avenue, which is very close to the area where the suspects were originally detained.

Deputy Vitols found over a dozen vehicles had been broken into by Butler and the juvenile and still more in the Newport Subdivision.

Butler and the juvenile allegedly admitted they took the property from vehicles and deputies returned items stolen to homeowners.

Deputy Dowlearn contacted the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, and they accepted two counts of burglary of a motor vehicle on each suspect.

The Sherrif’s office called the arrest pro-active, but there may have been a call about suspicious activity too.

Project to bring water from Trinity River to Lake Houston

HUFFMAN – The Texas Water Development Board approved a plan to bring raw water from the Trinity River to Luce Bayou on July 23.

The Luce Bayou Interbasin Transfer is a 23 mile canal that will cost $2.7 Billion to expand the Northeast Water Purification Plant. The plant that supplies water from Lake Houston to parts of Harris County and the City of Houston.

When voters approved a plan in 2013 to use $2 billion from oil and gas royalties to finance water projects the Texas Legislature created the State Water Implementation Fund Texas (SWIFT.) SWIFT is an ongoing plan to provide financial assistance for projects to state water plans. It is a cooperative effort between the state and counties.

A state water plan since 2001 to supply enough surface water to residents in Harris County was to pipe in water from the Trinity. The plan was to address two major obsticals to providing enough water. One problem is that Harris County has expanded to 4.4 million population, an increase of over 1/3 of a million since 2010. The other problem is subsidence, water taken from local aquifers amounted to 192 million gallons per day and as a result some of the land in Harris and Galveston Counties is sinking.

The plan would put the capacity for the Northeast Water Purification Plant that currently handles 100,000 gallons per day to 400,000 gallons per day.

Ground water would come at a premium at current usage.