Air Liquide’s history in and around the U.S. Gulf Coast region is long and full of extraordinary accomplishments. A large portion of this history is the evolution of the Bayport Complex, Air Liquide’s largest production facility in North America. It began in the 1960s when Big Three Industries Inc. purchased a 48-acre plot of land in La Porte, Texas. In 1968, Big Three commissioned the first production unit at the site, and in 1984, Big Three and General Electric formed the Bayou Cogen joint venture and constructed four GE Frame 7 gas turbines. In 1985, the cogeneration facility was added, and one year later, Air Liquide acquired Big Three Industries.
Since the acquisition, Air Liquide has remained committed to the Bayport Complex — upgrading and growing operations to safely and reliably provide innovative solutions to customers. In 2013, Air Liquide invested in the Bayport Redevelopment Initiative, providing upgrades to the facility’s state-of-the-art, energy-efficient, cogeneration unit, increasing production capacity, and extending the unit’s life by more than 20 years. The facility now has a full capacity of 300 megawatts of electricity and creates more than 1,300 tonnes of steam per hour.
Bayport is unique amongst all other Air Liquide facilities around the world. It is the only facility to have onsite air separation units, cogeneration units, boilers, industrial water treatment and a steam methane reformer. It has long served as the heart of the company’s Gulf Coast operations — supplying product to hundreds of customers in the region.
Exceptional and dedicated employees are the reason Air Liquide is the preferred supplier by so many customers. In thanks to all of the Bayport employees — past and present — we are sharing some of their stories.
Times were tough in the 70s, and Dale Golden and his wife were both trying to find employment. Originally from Oklahoma, Golden moved to Alvin, Texas, and in 1975, his neighbor told him about Big Three Industries (now Air Liquide) — a company where his neighbor knew the Bayport plant manager.
“When my neighbor told me about Big Three, I applied for a job and interviewed with several supervisors,” recalled Golden. “I had never worked in a plant before, but the plant had recently experienced a large turnover of workers, so I went for a physical and was hired as an operator shortly thereafter.”
When Golden showed up to work in September of that year, he had no idea how many good memories and valued friendships he’d make over the next 43 years.
“Air Liquide has been good to me. When Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coast area in 2017, my family lost everything. Air Liquide’s employee giving program provided us with special hardship loans, and after six months of rebuilding, my family was able to move back into our home. I’ll always be extremely grateful for the kindness and assistance showed by Air Liquide.”
If Golden won the lottery tomorrow, his coworkers are sure that he would still show up for work at Air Liquide the next day.
Originally from Louisiana, Bill Anderson moved to Houston in 1978 and joined Air Liquide in 1979. He’s currently a shift supervisor in the cogen and utilities units at Bayport.
While he was attending operations school for heavy equipment, Anderson heard that Air Liquide was hiring and that it would be steady work. He completed an application, and after interviewing with several people, was called back for a second interview. Both interviews went well, and within a few weeks, Anderson received a job offer.
During his time at Air Liquide, Anderson’s career progressed from a B operator to the process tech utility area. From there, he moved to the ASU compressor building, started rounds at the plant, and then moved into a process tech 2 role working the ASU control room. Most recently, he was promoted to a supervisor in the control room.
When reflecting back on his 39 years, Anderson said, “In this complex, we’ve always pulled together and worked extended hours when needed. In fact, there are four of us in my current shift that between us have more than 100 years of service at Air Liquide. Gary Melder and I grew up together and he’s been with Air Liquide for 34 years; Alex Bienek has been with Air Liquide for 29 years; and Warren Mushatt is the newest guy with five years of service.”
In addition to the camaraderie that he is appreciative for at Air Liquide, Anderson also speaks highly of the company’s safe environment and safety culture. He expressed that the company stands by its safety messages and emphasizes the importance of safe processes and procedures. He is happy to say that his health is good, and that he goes home each day with all body parts intact.
The way he and his colleagues look after each other and protect each other is something very special to him.
"People don’t work selfishly or by themselves here, and we have good managers at the plant who are always willing to help when needed."
Aditi Oza, Ph.D., works as a process engineer in field operations, focusing on oxygen safety. When she learned about Air Liquide, Dr. Oza was pursuing her doctorate degreee in oxygen safety. After completing her doctorate degree in oxygen safety she was ready for a job, and John Somavarapu, Ph.D., (also known as Dr. John) director of ASU technology at Air Liquide happened to be an alumni of the same school and mentioned to her there was a job available where she could apply her oxygen safety knowledge. She applied, was hired, and began her career at Air Liquide in 2011 in the National Support Group, also known as the Plant Optimization Department. Dr. Oza progressed to Risk Management and Compliance, and then in 2017, accepted an operations role at Bayport.
"Air Liquide is providing me with ample opportunity to utilize my education,” said Dr. Oza. “When I expressed an interest in moving from office work to field operations, I was encouraged by management. At Bayport, there are nine oxygen compressors on site, so when issues related to oxygen arise, I am the on-site expert there to help. This allows plant operations to receive prompt answers and increases our efficiency as a team. Strong communication efforts make for a successful plan of attack."
Dr. Oza has great passion for her work and is grateful she’s been given an opportunity in such a critical role at Bayport. Her ability to collaborate and her extensive knowledge benefit the team, the company and all of its customers.
Originally born in Mexico, Sam Aguilar came to the United States in the 1980s and grew up in the Houston area. He originally started working a turnaround at the Bayport cogen in 2002 as a contractor. He was on the mechanical team through 2008 and performed duties for the entire Bayport site including the air separation unit.
In 2006, when the new steam methane reformer project at Bayport was almost complete, the maintenance coordinator asked Aguilar to help with the mechanical startup. Air Liquide liked the way Aguilar worked, and in 2008, hired him full time.
Aguilar saw things at Air Liquide that excited him about his future — opportunity, growth and teamwork. He saw first hand how people help each other and the importance of daily communication as a key factor in keeping a safe operating environment.
Air Liquide gave me a chance,” said Aguilar. “After a mechanical role, I joined the operations team and from there moved to a maintenance coordinator. Air Liquide has been good to me through the years. The environment is friendly, people get along and help each other out daily. One of my closest coworkers is Jody Phillips, SMR production manager. We call each other brothers because we’ve grown up together here at Air Liquide. We know what each has been through in life, and I respect Jody not only for his knowledge, but also for the way he takes the time to teach, show and explain. His patience helps me and others continue to grow and improve our skills and knowledge. Learning from others like Jody helps further my career at Air Liquide.
"It’s the teamwork and friendships that make us successful and come back to work every day.”
Air Liquide thanks these employees, and all of the employees who have contributed to the 50 years of success at the Bayport Complex!
Air Liquide U.S. Media Relations
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