Big things moving: The commute of Baytown’s new ethane cracking tower

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The drive from the Port of Houston to Baytown, Texas, is about 30 miles. Even in the most challenging commuter traffic, that trip shouldn’t take 18 months to complete.

But, when you’re hauling two sections of an industrial tower that, combined, span 254 feet and weigh 1,393 tons, speed is relative.

The equipment is called a quench tower, and it’s part of ExxonMobil’s multibillion-dollar North American Growth Project in the Baytown and Mont Belvieu area.

The tower is part of the company’s construction of a new ethane cracker. The term “cracking” is the process of breaking down larger ethane molecules into smaller ethylene molecules that can then be used as basic building blocks for an array of plastic products. The tower will cool the product that leaves the steam-cracking furnaces. The heavier hydrocarbons are condensed and exit the bottom of the tower to be recovered at the existing Baytown Olefins Plant.

The tower was moved from the port to Baytown along local highways using a long, caterpillar-like vehicle known as a self-propelled modular transporter (SPMT), which runs on almost 300 tires. This was just one of more than 400 heavy equipment moves for the North American Growth Project that involved special trucks, new permits and road closures, all done at night to minimize the impact on traffic.

The loads for the quench tower were so heavy that two massive, temporary “jumper” bridges were installed over existing bridges to help support the weight.

The tower is now home, standing in the center of a vast construction site in Baytown. Thankfully, there is no need for a round trip.

Tags:   Baytownbig things moving
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