Operational improvements proposed at Pine Bend refinery

Flint Hills Resources has announced plans to make improvements to several processing units at its Pine Bend refinery in Rosemount, Minnesota. The projects are expected to improve reliability, reduce key emissions and improve the refinery's ability to convert crude oil into transportation fuels.

The proposed projects involve replacing three less-efficient heaters with two new heaters, upgrading an existing process heater and making improvements to the refinery's cooling towers. The new and modified heaters will include best available control equipment for nitrogen oxide (NOX) emissions and use cleaner-burning natural gas or fuel gas.

The new equipment and process improvements will lead to more efficient operations, allowing the refinery to operate closer to its design capacity of 320,000 bpd while continuing to make reductions in key emissions.

Since 1997, the Pine Bend refinery has lowered emissions of traditional criteria pollutants by approximately 70%, while increasing production to help meet demand for transportation fuel. According to Flint Hills Resources, the refinery has reduced total onsite emissions in 10 of the last 11 years, and its emissions per barrel are currently 50% lower than the industry average for large refineries.

The new projects will result in a decrease in NOX and sulfur dioxide emissions. The refinery is implementing best available control technology to minimize other emissions.

The projects are subject to regulatory review and will require permits from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The projects must also receive final approval from Flint Hills Resources management. Construction of the projects is expected to begin in 2014.

The projects, estimated to cost approximately $400 million, are expected to create as many as four million hours of new work, increasing the current temporary contract workforce at Pine Bend from a daily average of about 500 to more than 1,000 over at least the next five years. Pine Bend currently employs more than 900 people full-time and can have between 400 and 2,000 contract workers onsite on any given day.

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