LyondellBasell Matagorda Complex
The LyondellBasell Matagorda Complex is located in the southeastern portion of Texas near the Gulf of Mexico. The complex sits on a 2,500 acre campus 13 miles south of Bay City. The plant currently employs nearly 300 people.
The LyondellBasell Matagorda Complex primarily focuses on producing high- density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic resins for use in a number of consumer products. HDPE possesses a high degree of stiffness and strength as well as possessing the lowest permeability of all polyethylene plastics. In addition to this, HDPEs are resistant to corrosion, abrasion, chemical wear, and grease. Products that contain HDPEs range from home goods to home construction materials, personal- care products, automotive parts, safety equipment, and construction materials.
The Matagorda Complex has a stated commitment to environmental sustainability. The site seeks to minimize waste through active recycling methods. In addition, the factory has invested $2 million to increase the energy efficiency of all site processes. There have been no major chemical spills or contaminations in the site’s history. Despite this, though, increased production levels that started in 2005 have increased air emissions of toxic chemicals such as volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulates from 176 tons in 2005 to 261 tons in 2006.
The LyondellBasell Matagorda Complex continually strives to improve safety measures to protect workers and the surrounding areas from any accidents. It is a recipient of the Caring for Texas award from the Texas Chemical Council (given in recognition of operational excellence). Further, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has honored the plant’s devotion to safety by awarding it STAR status in the OSHA Voluntary Protection Program for the last ten years. Other awards recently acquired by the LyondellBasell Matagorda Complex include the Distinguished Service Award for Quality Safety Performance and the Best in Texas in Safety award. The site has been injury- free since 2007.
Although the Matagorda complex strives to improve safety, it is likely that the infrastructure of the facility itself is anything but. Many chemical plants built before 1980 used asbestos, a natural mining fiber. Asbestos was praised for its ability to act as a fire retardant and harsh weather insulator as well as a durable product used to make protective clothing for plant workers. Unfortunately this fiber was doing more damage than not. Asbestos is a toxic material and once it breaks loose and becomes airborne, it can be inhaled and become very harmful to anyone in contact with it. Mesothelioma is a common disease contracted by those who have spent considerable amounts of time around asbestos. It has a latency period of 20 to 50 years so once the cancer is diagnosed; there is not much that can be done to suppress this killer.