Industry: Test-Tube Cornucopia

The new plant at Beaumont, Texas, had all the brilliance—and some of the unreality—of a Dali painting, with its soaring silver towers and bright blue and brown pipes, all threaded together by garish yellow catwalks. Built by Socony's Mobil Chemical Co. at a cost of $25 million, the plant is typical of the complex and colorful plants in one of the world's fastest-growing industries: petrochemicals.* Last week, in the air-conditioned control rooms of Mobil's plant, engineers began the first tests of the complex maze of pipes. By summer, when the plant will...

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