ExxonMobil moving forward with $247M upgrade of Baton Rouge refinery

Economic development officials are celebrating this morning’s announcement by ExxonMobil that it will move forward with a $247 million investment at its north Baton Rouge refinery to modernize and upgrade the aging facility and enhance its competitiveness.

The three-year modernization program will create some 600 temporary construction jobs a year between 2021 and 2023 and generate an estimated $5 million a year in sales tax revenues. It will also enable the refinery to retain 1,300 engineer, operator and technician jobs, though it will not create any net new permanent jobs.

“Those of you who have been following this project know that this investment decision was not a given and that it is hugely important to advancing the site’s competitiveness for future investment,” Baton Rouge Area Chamber CEO Adam Knapp says. 

ExxonMobil officials have said their north Baton Rouge refinery, more than 60 years old, is losing out to the energy giant’s newer, more efficient refinery in Baytown, Texas, a problem exacerbated in 2020 by the downturn in global demand caused by the pandemic.

The three-year modernization program, known as the Baton Rouge Refinery’s Integrated Competitiveness Program, or BRRIC, will help reverse that trend by improving processing capability, increasing flexibility for meeting market demand, advancing overall site competitiveness, and installing technology for a voluntary 10% reduction of volatile organic compound emissions. 

ExxonMobil says it will focus on providing supplier opportunities specifically to north Baton Rouge businesses. 

Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome says the company’s effort to strategically partner with local companies for its procurement needs will bolster employment and help reinvigorate local businesses. 

Today’s announcement was not completely unexpected. ExxonMobil officials unveiled the proposal in late 2020 to widespread applause from local economic development and elected officials. To secure the project, Louisiana Economic Development offered ExxonMobil the LED FastStart training program and the company will utilize the state’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program. 

Earlier this year, it cleared an even more significant milestone in the process when it secured a $20 million,10-year property tax abatement from the state that was considered crucial to the decision to move forward.

Still, nothing was certain until corporate executives made the final investment decision in early May.

“We are delighted with ExxonMobil’s decision to move forward with this important suite of projects,” Gov. John Bel Edwards says in a prepared statement. “For more than a century, the ExxonMobil Baton Rouge Refinery has fueled the economy of our state and nation. These latest capital upgrades will continue to position the integrated ExxonMobil refinery and chemical complex here in Baton Rouge as one of the world’s most innovative and competitive energy sites.”