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Marathon Petroleum on track to convert Martinez refinery to renewables

Marathon Petroleum Corp. (MPC) is making progress on its plan to strategically reposition its now idle Martinez refinery in the San Francisco Bay Area of ​​northern California into a renewable fuels production site (OGJ Online, August 3, 2020 ).

Following the recent preliminary approval of the site’s air quality permit by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), the first phase of the Martinez Renewable Fuels (MRF) project – which, when operational, would bring nearly 50 000 bpd [260 million gal/year] of renewable diesel supply to market – is currently scheduled for mechanical completion by the end of 2022, MPC CEO Mike Hennigan told investors on the company’s latest quarterly earnings call. company on August 2.

“We also anticipate being able to close our [proposed] joint venture (JV) with Neste Corp. [as a partner at Martinez] in the coming months,” Hennigan said.

With pre-treatment unit (PTU) capabilities offered at Martinez slated to start up in the second half of 2023, MPC – which entered into a 50-50 partnership on the $1.2 billion MRF with Neste in March 2022 – said he currently expects the refinery to reach full production capacity of 730 million gal/yr by the end of 2023 (OGJ Online, March 7, 2022).

However, timelines for reaching MRF’s proposed production capabilities and closing the Neste joint venture still depend on when MPC obtains a final air quality permit for the project, Hennigan said.

MPC’s announcement follows a July 22 public notice from BAAQMD, the local agency that regulates stationary sources of industrial air pollution, of its preliminary determination that MRF will comply with all local, state and federal regulations. related to air quality, including health risks resulting from emissions of toxic air contaminants, according to an official statement from the agency.

Based on its thorough review of the MRF permit application, BAAQMD’s preliminary recommendation to issue a final permit for the project remains subject to a 30-day public comment period on the draft air permit which runs until August 23, said BAAQMD.

“[W]When this public comment period ends, [BAAQMD]in the same way [MPC] provide feedback, will respond to all feedback, and that should be the end of it [of the permitting process]said Ray Brooks, executive vice president of refining at MPC.

“[G]Getting the Air Permit will be a big deal that will allow us to… start the unit when it’s ready, and it will also allow us to complete our JV partnership with Neste. So we see the light at the end of the tunnel coming,” Brooks said.

MPC also confirmed that it was continuing to make progress on its South Texas Asset Repositioning (STAR) program at the 593,000 bpd Galveston Bay Refinery in Texas City, Texas, which included work to further integrate the operator’s former Texas City refinery in the adjacent Galveston Bay refinery to improve site efficiency and reliability by increasing residual oil processing capabilities, upgrading the crude unit and integrating logistics ( OGJ Online, July 30, 2018).

Currently slated for completion in early 2023, the STAR project is expected to increase crude capacity at Galveston Bay by 40,000 bpd, MPC executive vice president and chief financial officer Maryann Mannen said on the call. to the results.

FRM background

After indicating its interest in evaluating the potential repositioning of the Martinez site into a renewable diesel plant following the permanent shutdown of the former 161,000 bpd refinery in August 2020, MPC formally filed an application in November 2020 to California’s Contra Costa County (CCC) for a land use permit to advance the MRF Refinery Conversion to Renewable Energy project.

Approved to proceed with construction by the CCC Board of Directors in May 2022, the MRF is proposing to add new units and remove existing but obsolete units to the site to accommodate the processing of a mix of raw materials renewables such as soybean oil, corn oil, rendered fats and other various bio-based feedstocks – including used cooking oils and other vegetable oils – into renewable diesel, naphtha, propane and gas treated fuel (OGJ Online, June 6, 2022).

MPC would continue, after minor modifications, to use two of its existing marine oil terminals to receive and distribute raw materials and renewable fuels produced under the MRF, and would begin using another nearby MPC-owned terminal. Current truck systems would also remain in use to transport MFR’s raw materials and finished products, while existing pipelines would undergo minor upgrades such as insulation to ensure the product remains fluid enough to flow, according to the report. of the project. Renewable feedstocks would also be supplied by rail at regional third-party terminals, but offloaded onto barges or other river vessels for delivery via one of MPC’s existing marine terminals, as the refinery is not equipped to offload renewable raw resources from trains.

Proposed unit additions to the site would include a renewable feedstock PTU, wastewater treatment equipment and a three-stage low nitrogen oxide advanced thermal oxidizer. Major equipment that needs to be removed includes crude unit, gasoline hydrotreater, alkylation unit, fluidized catalytic cracking unit (FCCU), reformers, retard coker, steam boilers, among others.

Scheduled for a construction period of approximately 22 months, MPC said the first of the refinery’s existing units to be modified for production of renewable fuels by MFR includes conversions of Hydrodesulfurizer No. 3, second-stage hydrocracking unit and unit No. 5 gas plant.