Marathon Petroleum – Texas City Campus’ Efforts

Background

Marathon Petroleum Company’s Galveston Bay refinery is in Texas City, Texas, on Galveston Bay, near the entrance to the Houston Ship Channel. In 2018, Galveston Bay merged with MPC’s former Texas City refinery into a single world-class refining complex with a crude oil refining capacity of 585,000 barrels per day. This refinery can process and convert a wide variety of crude oils into gasoline, distillates, aromatics, heavy fuel oil, dry gas, fuel-grade coke, refinery-grade propylene, chemical-grade propylene, and sulfur. Products are distributed via pipeline, barge, transport truck, rail, and ocean tanker. The refinery has access to the export market and multiple options to sell refined products.

The Texas Coast acts as a “funnel” for birds and insects migrating along the Central and Mississippi flyways; as a result, the availability of quality habitat in this region is especially important for migrating and resident wildlife alike. Marathon’s Habitat Enhancement, Awareness and Recycle Team (HEART) has mobilized to transform unused company property into viable wildlife habitats, which benefit local wildlife while creating environmental education opportunities for employees and the community.

Habitat in Marathon's Duck Pond
A Purple Gallinule visiting the Duck Pond

Project

The main issues the project hopes to address are stormwater runoff, the prevalence of manicured turf (which is undesirable to wildlife), habitat loss for migrant birds, and raising awareness of Marathon’s non-regulatory environmental efforts. The refinery complex includes several acres of green space, providing a number of opportunities for wildlife habitat. To date, HEART has coordinated dozens of employee and community volunteers for the following habitat projects: Butterfly Boulevard, a pollinator garden near the main offices; Learning Lanes, educational native plant beds including solitary bee houses; the 29th St. Duck Pond, a converted detention pond with duck and purple martin nest boxes, as well as bat boxes; Cooper’s Landing, a green space with mature trees; and Warbler Woods, a densely wooded area near the Duck Pond with walking trails.

Habitat for ducks at Marathon
A pair of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks on a nest box, overlooking the Pond and the nearby Warbler Woods.

Restoration and Impact

  • Butterfly Boulevard broke ground in 2016 with dozens of milkweed plants and native nectar-producers; this project targeted monarch butterflies specifically but benefits many species of native pollinators.
  • The following year, HEART partnered with the local 4H club and Boy Scout troops and engaged employees and their families for the Learning Lanes garden plantings. So far, native wasps and leafcutter bees have used the bee houses in this area – shelter for pollinators and other wildlife is a key aspect of habitat restoration. These gardens also serve as an outdoor classroom for families to learn about Texas plants and wildlife.
  • Planning for the Duck Pond arose as a means to both manage stormwater runoff and create wildlife habitat – in its first year, the installed nest boxes attracted four pairs of nesting black-bellied whistling ducks and a pair of eastern bluebirds. The pond also acts as a vital migration rest stop for waterfowl and wetland birds such as black-necked stilts, purple gallinules, snowy egrets, and sandpipers.
  • Cooper’s Landing is named for the resident breeding pair of Cooper’s hawks; future plans for this area include understory development and adding seating.
  • A variety of migratory warblers and other birds can be spotted in the Warbler Woods, which is also home to nesting Swainson’s hawks. Improvements to this area include removing invasive trees and cutting walking paths for employees/birders.
  • Over 10,600 individual animals were recorded at MPC’s 6-acre Texas City Wildlife Habitat Council-certified site including 8,191 birds (160 species), 2,143 pollinators, and 285 other assorted animals including spiders, snakes, tree frogs, anoles, grasshoppers, and turtles.
  • MPC averages 40 people annually planting cord grasses at the 2,300-acre Texas City Prairie Preserve to prevent bank erosion. This section of shoreline was eroding by one foot each year from a lack of stabilizing vegetation.
Marathon volunteers planting the Learning Lanes
Marathon volunteers planting the Learning Lanes

Beyond habitat projects on company property, partnerships with community groups such as Texas Master Naturalists and Galveston Bay Foundation have extended Marathon’s impact and amplified local environmental efforts. A Galveston Bay Refinery employee worked with the Galveston Bay Area Chapter Texas Master Naturalists to install 96 new collection tubes for recycling monofilament (fishing line) across Galveston County. The new collection tubes were accompanied by new signs (featured in four languages) that explain what the stations are for, why they are important, and how to use them. Discarded fishing line can be harmful to boat motors and marine wildlife.

Marathon volunteers working with habitat
A fledgling Northern mockingbird taking refuge in Marathon's restored habitat
A fledgling Northern mockingbird taking refuge in Marathon’s restored habitat
A honeybee visiting flowers in the pollinator garden
A honeybee visiting flowers in the pollinator garden
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