Total completes deep conversion at Port Arthur refinery, new units on-stream

(updates with photos)

By Ben DuBose

PORT ARTHUR, Texas -- Total on Thursday announced the completion of a three-year, $2.2 billion expansion of its Port Arthur refinery, with all new units successfully started and on-stream.

The deep conversion project included a 50,000 bpd coker, 55,000 bpd vacuum distillation unit (VDU-2) and 64,000 bpd distillate hydrotreater (DHT-3).

The units expand the company’s ability to process heavy and sour crude oil and produce cleaner transportation fuels, such as ultra-low sulfur diesel, officials said.

“Having the ability to access what the market gives you on raw materials is very important,” said Darrell Jacob, refinery manager for Total in Port Arthur. “As far as ultra-low sulfur diesel, that’s what the transportation fuels market demands.”

The expansion will allow the refinery to produce 3mn tons more of ultra-low sulfur diesel for automotive use, officials said.

Michel Benezit, an executive vice president for France-based Total and president of refining and marketing, called it an important day for Total’s downstream operations, also noting that the new production was “more environmentally-friendly”.

“It allows us to adjust to a changing crude market and gives us more flexibility in supply,” said Benezit. He attended a ceremony in Port Arthur to inaugurate the facility’s new units.

Total officials said the Port Arthur refinery’s integration with its adjacent joint venture (with BASF) petrochemical plant offers “additional market opportunities” to maximize profits.

Officials did not comment on whether they were considering an expansion of that facility. Producers such as Dow Chemical and LyondellBasell have recently said they are considering expanding their US Gulf petrochemical plants amid increased feedstock availability.

The Port Arthur deep conversion project was announced on February 12, 2008, employing more than 17,000 construction workers throughout the project.

Workers logged nearly 18mn work hours upon completion, exceeding 5mn safe work hours without a loss time incident on two separate occasions, the company said.

Total officials said they recognized that work by awarding the refinery with its highest company safety award.

The Total Port Arthur refinery has a capacity of 232,000 bpd, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), making it the 27th-largest in the US.

The image below is of Total's new coker. For more photos and details on the Port Arthur expansion, read the July magazine issue of Hydrocarbon Processing.

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