By CHERIL VERNON
Wholesale chemical company Baze Chemical announced its plans to build an ethoxylation plant on the old Vernon Calhoun meat packing property on FM 323 to community and business leaders Wednesday.
Baze Chemical lead engineer Maurice Karras spoke briefly about the project during the Palestine Rotary Club’s meeting Wednesday.
“We are building a state-of-the-art ethoxylation plant,” Karras told the Herald-Press during an interview Wednesday following the meeting.
The plant is projected to cost $10 to 15 million to construct to start operations, Karras said.
Ethoxylation is an industrial process that produces ethylene oxide, which has a wide market of products that can be made from it in the oil and gas industries, among other industries. For example, a company may choose to use it to make surfactants (industrial detergents).
Baze Chemical, headquartered in Odessa, was founded in 1992, originally known as InterChem, until 2011 when it went through a progressive rebranding and became Baze Chemical Inc. The company services the oil well drilling, crude oil and gas production, water treating and mining markets with chemical solutions that extend the life of their components and increase production. Baze Chemical also operates at two additional locations, a blending facility in New Iberia, La. and a manufacturing plant located in Liberty, Texas.
After purchasing 25.5 acres on the old Vernon Calhoun meat packing property, Baze Chemical is currently in the construction phase of modernizing the buildings, building its plant facilities and fencing in the property.
“We will be building for the next 12 months and hope to start the actual operation in the first quarter next year,” Karras said. “Every building will be remodeled cosmetically and the overall appearance of the plant will be modern.”
However, the office space will be remodeled to be suited for a smaller operation, only using the space that is necessary.
“We only need part of the office space, for example, and we will use that same philosophy for the rest of the buildings,” Karras said.
Baze Chemical has a policy to use local contractors in the area of where their plants are located if at all possible.
“We have already paid out quite a bit to contractors. We are working with three to four local contractors at present,” Karras said.
Baze Chemical will be hiring from 30 to 36 people to operate the plant at its completion, with jobs ranging from high-tech (chemical plant operators) to chemists with Master’s degrees and Ph. Ds.
“As typical with a chemical industry refinery, you have less people because of the customated equipment, but you have quality employees with good paying jobs, though it’s not labor intensive,” Karras said. “They are all high-wage jobs with benefits, some will make more than $100,000 a year. This is a good company to have in the community and it’s a good company to work for.”
Karras credited two Palestine residents for bringing Baze Chemical to Palestine: Timothy Triplett, who owns an engineering company and has worked with Baze Chemical over the past few years; and Steve Presley, president of the Texas State Railroad Authority board.
“We would have never brought this plant to Palestine if it wasn’t for Steve and Timothy,” Karras said.
Triplett helped Karras find suitable property for the plant, while Presley cooperated with Baze Chemical to make sure a rail line near the plant would be operational.
“We need a rail line to bring our raw materials. The foresight of the Texas State Railroad to prepare this rail made this deal possible,” Karras said. “This is a very nice community and you are extremely lucky to have excellent business and community leaders who are very involved at the civic level. We are all here to make something happen.”
Karras reiterated that the Baze Chemical plant in Palestine would have a “near to zero toxic emission” and “there will not be a smell.”
Every tank used for the ethoxylation process will have a nitrogen cushion and a safety valve. A wastewater treatment facility also will be built.
Chemical plants are highly regulated, which lends its self to a high-safety standard, Karras said.
“For those with safety concerns, chemical plants in general are monitored by several organizations ranging from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, FBI, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Homeland Security and the Coast Guard,” Karras said. “Any plant with a repertoire of chemicals is under tight control of these organizations due to concerns from terrorist operations.”