ExxonMobil Chemical: petrochemicals since 1886

All plastics start their life as an oil fraction. ExxonMobil Chemical is specialized in the production of chemical building blocks for the plastics industry using starting materials from ExxonMobil’s refineries or its own chemical plants. The history of these operations goes back a long way. Actually, petrochemical operations are almost as old as the oil industry itself.

The first specialized chemist employed by Standard Oil, the researcher Herman Frasch, developed a method of removing sulfur from kerosene, or lamp oil, as early as 1886. The first commercial application of a petrochemical product dates back to 1920 when isopropyl alcohol came on the market, a product used in cosmetics.

In 1930, ExxonMobil also invented butyl rubber, and is currently its largest producer. As butyl is so impermeable to air one of its primary uses is for inner tubes.

Large scale

We have to look back to the sixties for the start of the now familiar large-scale petrochemical industry. This is when plastic started it’s unstoppable growth with one plastics factory being established after another. Different ExxonMobil Chemical petrochemical factory complexes were built in the Benelux, such as the Aromatics Plant [hyperlink] next to the Esso refinery [hyperlink] in the Botlek area of Rotterdam in 1965 and the production units for fluids [hyperlink] (including solvents) at the Esso refinery [hyperlink] in Antwerp.

No world without plastics

The many producers in the chemical sector eventually brought about a radical change to our living environment. Most of us would find it hard to imagine a world without plastics. Over a period of less than fifty years, a wide range of wood, metal and stone implements have been replaced by their plastic counterparts. Plastic components are included in an increasing number of machines, buildings and vehicles. And the research continues, with even more and even better plastics arriving on the market. ExxonMobil is playing a leading role in these developments, as they did during the first years of the petrochemical industry.

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Our history

Our history

ExxonMobil is one of the few modern companies that were already operating during the nineteenth century. The current Benelux-based organization has its roots in Antwerp, Rotterdam and the United States. In 1882, John D. Rockefeller, the well-known tycoon, founded the Standard Oil Company, the predecessor of the present ExxonMobil company.