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RE: Chalmette Refining Continues Money-Saving Delayed Coker Projects

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Charles Randall

Chalmette Refining Continues Money-Saving Delayed Coker Projects

SUGAR LAND–November 10, 2010–Researched by Industrial Info Resources (Sugar Land, Texas)–Chalmette Refinery (Chalmette, Louisiana), a 50:50 joint venture between Exxon Mobil Corporation (Irving, Texas) and Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA) (Caracas, Venezuela), recently shut down three units to conserve company funds in the face of the economic recession: a 32,000-barrel-per-day (BBL/d) semi-regenerative reformer unit; the 10,000-BBL/d Delayed Coker Unit 1; and a 23,000-BBL/d hydrocracker. The refinery also will make enhancements and upgrades to the Delayed Coker Unit 2 to improve operations and ensure that all safety standards are being met.

The 10,000-BBL/d Delayed Coker Unit 1–which has two coke drums, was designed by Chicago Bridge & Iron Company NV (CB&I) and utilizes vertical plate coke drum technology–was brought online in the late 1950s and processed feedstock for sweet and Venezuelan crude. The CB&I design is widely used because of the long life the vertical plate coke drum technology offers refiners.

While the Delayed Coker Unit 1 remains idled, the Chalmette Refinery is continuing with major upgrade plans for the 30,000-BBL/d Delayed Coker Unit 2, which utilizes a ConocoPhillips  (Houston, Texas) design with four coke drums, each measuring 26 feet in diameter. The ConocoPhillips technology is preferred among refiners because of its focus on safety. Other advantages include reliability and a history of high yields. Chalmette’s long-term plan after closing the smaller coker is to incorporate both the CB&I and ConocoPhillips technologies into the larger unit with a series of safety-related upgrades. The company anticipates that the upgrades will prove more cost-effective for the refinery in the long run, as well as provide a more reliable, safe and efficient processing coker.

Plans originally included the evaluation of reliability and safety revamps on both delayed coker units, but refinery officials realized that, from a long-term financial standpoint, optimizing and operating only the larger of the two units could save the refinery $105 million annually.

Short-term plans include the addition of a hydraulic chute on one of the two sets of coke drums in the 30,000-BBL/d unit. This project is under construction and will be finished during the unit’s minor turnaround, which is scheduled to be completed in two weeks. Long-term upgrades that are being planned for this unit include improving the unit’s safety and reliability. Bayside Engineering Group Incorporated (Lynden, Washington) provided the engineering for the hydraulic chute addition, which will temporarily satisfy the unit’s safety requirements until funds can be obtained for the more costly upgrades, which are estimated to cost $40 million. Wink Incorporated, an onsite contractor for the Chalmette refinery, is performing the construction for the hydraulic chute addition.

Cost analysis and feasibility studies are being conducted on the unit for long-term safety needs. Options being evaluated include adding four DeltaValves (DeltaGuard Technology) coke-drum auto-unheading devices to the top and bottom of both sets of coke drums, or installing slide-gate valves (24 feet long) on each coke drums. The Chalmette Refinery is leaning toward the auto-unheading device option, because that would be more cost-effective than to install slide-gate valves, which could cost up to $5 million to install on each drum. The unit currently utilizes two Fluor-design swing-away header valves. The advantage of the slide-gate valves is that they have bolts that hold them in place, and it only takes the flip of a switch to release the unwanted coke byproducts.

The other project being considered is replacing two of the four coke drums that will utilize the vertical plate and CB&I technology, and upgrading the egress (exit) tower for additional unit and operator safety. These projects are still in the early stages of development, and officials hope to obtain final funding and begin construction in 2012, and have all their safety be completed by the end of 2013.

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