ExxonMobil Chemicals was 6th in the ICIS list of Top 100 companies in 2002, during the last downturn. By last year, it had risen to 2nd place, according to the latest ICIS list.
One of the secrets of its success was set out in an interesting Bloomberg interview yesterday with Basic Chemicals SVP, TJ Wojnar. This made it clear that EM is focusing ever more intensively on optimising production along the refining/petchem interface. Thus Wojnar noted that "the company would only consider buying plants that can be connected directly to Exxon Mobil oil refineries", in order to ensure that "by-products of the refining process can be turned into chemicals when fuel demand and prices are low".
Wojnar also gave an interesting example of this strategy in action, revealing that over the past 3 weeks, EM has been increasing the amount of refinery-produced vacuum gasoil (VGO) used in ethylene/polyethylene production, due to slowing gasoline demand. As he noted, the rationale for this move was simple, that "VGO is in surplus", and so it made sense for the company to take advantage of the lower feedstock cost..