The Arkema plant at Beaumont began to operate in 1975 as a component of the Pennwalt Corporation, and in 1989 joined the team of Elf Atochem. In the middle of 2000, Atofina Chemicals, Inc. was created because of a merger between the parent company of Elf Aquitaine, Elf Atochem, and TotalFina. As a component of Arkema, the facility at Beaumont plays an important part in an industry that has ties all over the world. The plant at Beaumont is found in the center of the “Golden Triangle” in Texas, which is the center of the timber and oil industry in America.
Although the early boom years at the Beaumont plant were energized by the discovery of the first great oil well on earth at Spindletop in 1901, the economy of the city today is rich and diverse, with chemical and food processing plants, paper mills, shipyards lumber, rice mills, and manufacturers of both industrial equipment and precision medical instruments. A key factor in the industrial success of the area is transportation, as there is convenient highway and rail access as well as three deep water ports, which assists in the delivery of raw products and materials.
The plant at Beaumont is responsible for the production of ethyl mercaptan, methyl mercaptan, and DMS, or dimethyl sulfide. Additionally, an MMP unit was added to operations at the start of 2005. These products are essential ingredients in the creation of animal feed supplements, biodegradable herbicides, and pesticides. They are also used to produce circuit boards, pharmaceuticals, and photographic chemicals. Ethyl mercaptan is typically used to odorize propane gas; the compound adds a strong odor to propane gas that makes it easy to detect gas leaks, which adds to the safety of businesses and homes. MMP is used when methionine is created; methionine is an important amino acid as well as an important component of feed for ruminants such as cattle and sheep, as well as poultry and swine feed.
Like many chemical plants built in the 1960s and 1970s, Arkema’s Beaumont plant may have contained significant amounts of asbestos in its construction materials. Though this fibrous mineral protected buildings and equipment from heat and corrosion, it proved deadly to many of the employees who worked in these plants, since even brief periods of exposure to asbestos are known to cause an aggressive type of cancer called mesothelioma.