The CHS refinery in Laurel joined in the community’s tradition of holiday lights this year by turning its new, 310-foot coker into a giant Christmas tree. “It’s been kind of fun,” said Pat Kimmet, the refinery’s manager. “There’s so much community spirit here. We’re glad to be a part of that.”
The construction manager and electrical foreman strung low-temperature red and green lights around the imposing structure about a week ago. The refinery plans to keep the lights on the unit and may change colors throughout the year.
The $325 million project is almost complete. The coker is scheduled to go into operation during the first quarter of next year, Kimmet said. Despite some difficulties with the project, it is still on schedule, he said, and “moving along well.”
New operators have been trained and are working to commission the new equipment, Kimmet said. Overall, the coker project has added 35 full-time permanent employees and increased payroll by $3.5 million, he said. During peak construction, there were 2,400 workers at the refinery.
The coker will allow the refinery to break down heavier crude oil into lighter petroleum products. Coke, a byproduct that can be burned as a fuel, will be sent by rail to the West Coast for shipment to overseas markets.