Valero Celebrates Expansion and Future of Texas City Refinery

abarrelfullabarrelfull wrote on 07 Dec 2012 20:04

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Valero employees, local elected officials and other dignitaries gathered at the Valero Texas City refinery today to celebrate the completion of a two-year, $337 million upgrade and expansion project that will significantly increase the plant's profitability.

"We've always had a world-class workforce in Texas City," said Bill Greehey, chairman of the board and CEO of Valero. "With these upgrades, the Texas City refinery is now the world-class facility our employees deserve."

Since acquiring the facility in 1997, the company has added 73 jobs at the refinery, which today employs 477 individuals. Valero has also increased the plant's total refining capacity from 165,000 barrels per day (BPD) to 243,000 BPD, and the refinery's rating on the Solomon Refinery Performance Index, which ranks refineries in areas such as profitability, reliability, and safety, has improved from third- and fourth-quartile performance to first- or second-quartile performance in every area. The refinery has also gained recognition as one of the nation's safest work sites after being one of the first nine U.S. refineries to be accepted into the Occupational Safety and Health Association's (OSHA) Voluntary Protection Program as a Star Site.

"We're proud of the investments we've made in the refinery," Greehey said. "In the last four years we've invested more than $750 million, which is more than we've invested in any other refinery in our system. And we're not finished because we plan on spending approximately $600 million more over the next four years," he said.

"Texas City is very fortunate to have a company like Valero as a member of our community," said Texas City Mayor Carlos Garza. "In the six years since the company began its operations here, they have not only invested in their own plant and people, but they have demonstrated a genuine commitment to investing in the entire community through job creation and community service."

Delayed Coker
The centerpiece of the refinery's recently completed expansion project is a 45,000 BPD delayed coker unit that will allow the refinery to process heavier, lower-cost crude oil into lighter, higher-value products such as heating oil and naphtha. The refinery's ability to process the lower-cost crude will lower the refinery's feedstock costs by as much as $1 per barrel, which will result in savings of up to $105 million per year. The majority of the heavy, sour (high-sulfur) crude will come from Mexico and will be supplied by Mexico-based PMI Comercio Internacional, a subsidiary of Pemex. Valero and PMI entered into a long-term supply agreement in late 2001 for 90,000 BPD of heavy, sour Maya crude. Executives from Pemex and PMI were also on hand to celebrate the completion of the unit and the commencement of the supply agreement.

"Our contract with PMI is very significant because it gives us a reliable source of heavy, sour crude and reduces our dependence on long-haul crudes," said Greehey.

Completion of the unit, which included several additional refinery unit modifications and infrastructure changes, took less than 28 months from process engineering to mechanical completion, which was two months ahead of schedule and a record time for constructing a coker unit. Nearly 2 million man-hours were recorded on the project, and the workforce swelled to more than 1,000 individuals during peak construction periods.

Houston-based Foster Wheeler Corp. assisted with the design, engineering and construction of the coker and various related units and equipment, and more than 50 subcontractor firms provided additional support for the project.

Greehey also noted that completion of the project was a "global" effort. "Not only did this project make Texas City a world-class refinery, it was a world-class project because it involved companies and equipment from around the world," he said.

The most prominent features of the coker unit, the four towering steel petroleum coke drums, were fabricated in Japan. Each drum measures more than 100 feet tall and 28 feet in diameter, and weighs 280 tons. The vessels were hoisted into place using a specialized 1,200-ton crane that was shipped from Great Britain. The drums collect petroleum coke, which is a black, coal-like byproduct of the oil refining process that can be used as fuel for power plants and other industrial facilities. Storage and transportation of the petroleum coke from the unit will be coordinated by Applied Industrial Materials Corporation (AIMCOR), which has a facility near the Valero refinery.

Additional drums and towers for the unit were made in Korea, and fired heater modules used in the coker process were manufactured in Italy. Additional equipment was supplied from France, Germany and Canada.

The coker unit sits atop 25,000 cubic yards of concrete, which is supported by more than 3,000 pre-cast concrete pilings below the surface that range from 75 to 90 feet deep. The unit also utilizes 60 miles of piping, including three miles below ground and 57 miles above ground, with pipes ranging from four to 24 inches in diameter. And, more than 1 million feet of power and control cable are wound through the unit.

Other upgrade projects related to the coker unit involved modifying the refinery's crude unit to run Maya crude; converting the residfiner to a gas oil hydrotreater to allow the refinery to process material produced by the coker; doubling the capacity of one of the refinery's sulfur plants to handle the higher level of sulfur in the Maya crude; and numerous tankage and infrastructure improvements.

Valero also recently completed an $89 million, 53,000 BPD gasoline desulfurization unit which is the first grassroots Tier II gasoline unit to be commissioned in the Valero system.

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