The petrochemical industry is one of the largest industries in Texas. In 1956-58, the 1,000-mile system of pipelines along the East Texas Gulf Coast was called a “spaghetti bowl.” The term has been credited to industrial developer G. R. (Jack) Walton by Houston magazine.
In the 1970s, the nation-wide maze of state and federal highways also used this “spaghetti bowl” term. It should be noted that the reference is more to the twisted strands of spaghetti in the bowl and not to the bowl itself.
Historic Houston - Late 50’s
A new expression came into popular use as the petrochemical empire of the area expanded. It was said that in a flat triangle resting on the prolific East Texas Gulf Coast, the mighty petrochemical industry was feeding from an overflowing “Spaghetti Bowl”, unlike anything to be found anywhere else in the world. This statement was made by G. R. (Jack) Walton, a veteran industrial developer who coined the phrase to describe the maze of underground pipelines connecting various plants in the area. In this golden triangle, it was estimated that 85 per cent of the nation’s petrochemical-producing capacity was housed in a $2,000,000,000 complex of plants, most of them having been developed within the decade. At that time, some 32 plants and seven underground salt domes were linked together by the concentrated pipelines of the “Spaghetti Bowl.” Within this bowl were an estimated 814 miles of chemical pipelines by which a waste material of one plant became a raw material of another.
Handbook of Texas Online
CHEMICAL INDUSTRIES. Though “chemical industries,” broadly defined, would include such industries as cement production, the sulfur industry, the cottonseed industry, the salt industry, and the oil and gas industry the term is here considered as applying to those industries engaged in the production of chemical compounds most of which find industrial use directly or by further conversion. The production of chemicals in Texas makes up the largest manufacturing industry in the state. Chemical industries did not get a significant beginning in Texas until World War I.
Petrochemicals. The largest-volume petrochemical product was ethylene, produced in more than a dozen Texas plants, most of them along the coast. Ethylene is an intermediate product, used in the making of dozens of chemicals. Some of these were polyethylene, made in larger amounts than any other plastic, vinyl plastics, styrene plastics and rubber, and cellulose acetate, as well as solvents, cleaning agents, antifreeze compounds, and many other products. The preparation of most of these petrochemicals was carried on in several phases, often in different plants, which were frequently connected by pipelines. The term “spaghetti bowl” has come into use to describe the elaborately interconnected production complexes that have grown up along the Houston Ship Channel and the Sabine-Neches Waterway and Sabine Pass Ship Channel. Texas produced 70 percent of American ethylene production in 1989, making it the fifth largest producer in the world. Synthetic rubber, pioneer product of the state’s petrochemical industry, was made in larger volume in 1968 and in a wider range of types than ever before. Ten Texas plants, along the coast from Houston to Beaumont-Port Arthur and also in Borger and Odessa, turned out various polymers and copolymers for use as rubber. In 1970 Texas produced 80 percent of the nation’s synthetic rubber
(Oxford English Dictionary)
spaghetti bowl, a network of pipelines constructed to carry materials between petrochemical companies on the Gulf Coast of the U.S.
1958 Houston Apr. 16/1 The mighty petrochemical industry today is feeding from an overflowing ‘Spaghetti Bowl’. Ibid. 16/3 Industrial Sales Engineer G. R. Walton of the Houston Pipe Line Company (the man who coined the term ‘Spaghetti Bowl’ about two years ago).
1970 Chem. & Engin. News 26 Oct. 30 Mention ‘the spaghetti bowl’ and most West European petrochemical producers would probably think of the pipeline system in the Gulf Coast of the U.S. rather than the maze being developed in their own back yard.
18 March 1962, Corpus Christi (TX) Caller-Times, pg. E1, col. 3:
Big Chemical Complex
More than $3 billion is invested in Gulf Coast chemical plants. This total investment is enhanced by a unique 814-mile network of chemical-carrying pipelines which interrelate 32 salt domes so that one plant’s byproducts become another plant’s feedstocks; this “spaghetti bowl” is an attraction for industry which few other areas can offer.
31 May 1964, Big Spring (TX) Daily Herald, “Texas Gulf Coast Home of Great Chemical Complex,” pg. 7A, col. 2:
A unique attraction to industry in this area, the article said, has been the development of a 1,000-mile maze of pipelines, aptly titled the “spaghetti bowl.”
Decisive Years for Houston
by Marvin Hurley
Houston, TX: Houston Magazine
A new expression came into popular use as the petrochemical empire of the area expanded. It was said that in a flat triangle resting on the prolific East Texas Gulf Coast, the mighty petrochemical industry was feeding from an overflowing “Spaghetti Bowl”, unlike anything to be found anywhere else in the world. This statement was made by G. R. (Jack) Walton, a veteran industrial developer who coined the phrase to describe the maze of underground pipelines connecting various plants in the area.
20 October 1968, Victoria (TX) Advocate, pg. 13D, col. 4 ad:
This is a model of what has been appropriated dubbed “The Spaghetti Bowl.” It represents that vast complex of pipelines that weaves its way along the Texas Gulf Coast, delivering and interchanging feedstocks made from the area’s abundant store of oil and gas hydrocarbons.
(Houston Natural Gas—ed.)
24 February 1972, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Does Lubbock Need a ‘Spaghetti Bowl’?” by Walter B. Moore, section D, pg. 2:
According to the Wall Street Journal, a giant Japanese business combine plans an industrial development that resembles the pipeline network of the petrochemical industries operating on the Texas Gulf Coast.
Popularly known as the “spaghetti bowl” the Texas network connects some 69 chemical plants, 10 refineries, 8 salt domes and some other plants for quick, economical transfer of petrochemical materials.
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Monday, April 28, 2008 • Permalink