Photography by Don Kadair


This image from November might appear to be mere piles of pipes, beams and other building materials. But in roughly the next two years, those piles will climb high into the sky to form a facility that will give Shell Chemical’s Geismar plant the greatest alpha olefins-producing capacity in the world. It will be the fourth alpha olefins production plant on the 800-acre site, where Shell has operated since 1967.


Shell has invested some $717 million at its Geismar plant to boost its alpha olefins production to 425 kilotons per year, which would put the facility at the top of the world in that category. The project is expected to create 20 new direct jobs at the Geismar plant, with an average salary of $104,000 plus benefits.


Alpha olefins are an intermediate specialty chemical that is crucial for a variety of consumer and industrial products, including packaging plastics, synthetic lubricants, drilling fluids and household detergents.


Construction began in late 2015, and it’s expected to wrap up by mid-2018, says Rhoman Hardy, Shell Geismar general manager. Baton Rouge-based Turner Industries is the general construction contractor for the project, which is expected to generate some 1,500 construction jobs. “Not only is it providing products that people want, you get to provide long-term jobs,” Hardy says. “It’s really satisfying to see.”