World number one oil and gas company- Exxon Mobil Corp. has seen robust growth of its chemical business. The production and sales of plastics and other chemicals accounted for US$4.9 bln in profit on 2010, a record-breaking figure that surpasses the earnings of any other chemical maker except Germany's BASF. The company’s earnings in 2009 were US2.6 bln. The 2010 figure includes a gain of about US$2 bln from improved margins, compared with additional volume earnings of only US$380 mln. The lion's share of total growth was in the US, endowed with the ethane advantage. In 2010, Exxon's chemical unit generated better returns on capital—segment income divided by capital investment—than the upstream division for the first time since 1998. And in recent quarters, chemicals returns have routinely beat Exxon's refinery segment, typically a cash cow.
Exxon's chemical unit was more profitable in 2010 than both its U.S. oil and gas operations and its whole fuel-making business. That trend continued in Q1-2011, when chemicals earned US$1.5 bln for Exxon, about one-seventh of its total profit.