May 14, 2010 at 5:07 pm #2675
Coker upgrade a massive undertaking
TOM HOWARD Of The Gazette Staff | Posted: Friday, May 14, 2010 12:00 am
JAMES WOODCOCK/Gazette Staff
The Billings ConocoPhillips refinery plans a $50 million upgrade this summer.
Sometime in late July, while most Billings residents are asleep, a massive truck will roll through town, carrying tons of steel that will be used in a $50 million upgrade to the ConocoPhillips refinery.
Steve Steach, manager of the Billings refinery, said Thursday thatE the project involves replacing the two cylindrical drums that are part of a $150 million coker, which was completed in 1992. Each new drum is 100 feet long and 24 feet in diameter and weighs 300 tons.
In a related development, ConocoPhillips is moving about five people to Billings as the company focuses on production in the Bakken oil field in North Dakota and Montana.
Moving the coke drums from Japan, where they are being fabricated, to Billings requires a complicated permitting system and careful planning. As part of the project, CononcoPhillips must temporarily relocate 800 power lines to accommodate the heavy transport vehicles. Because the loads are so long and heavy, the trucks will take back roads, travel no faster than 35 mph and travel between 10:30 p.m. and 6 a.m., when traffic is lightest. State police will escort the trucks through Idaho and Montana, according to information provided by ConocoPhillips. The special trucks have numerous axles that spread the load over a large area.
The steel drums are an integral part of the coker, a unit that applies heat and pressure to heavier, less valuable components of crude oil, converting them into more useful products such as gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. The coker unit was completed in 1992, one of a series of investments that have been made in the three Billings-area oil refineries.
The upgrade to the Billings coker will be completed early next year. But ConocoPhillips has placed on hold plans to install a $500 million refining unit designed to handle heavier crude oil, Steach told the Big Sky Economic Development Authority’s board of commissioners.
ConocoPhillips Chief Executive Jim Mulva mentioned the large-scale refinery upgrade during a visit to Billings in 2006. However, those plans have since been shelved. Last fall, ConocoPhillips announced a plan to dispose of $10 billion in its less-profitable assets over two years. As part of that plan, ConocoPhillips agreed to sell its interest in Syncrude, a joint venture developing the tar sands in northern Canada. Sinopec, a Chinese oil producing firm, is paying $4.65 billion for the ConocoPhillips stake in Syncrude.
Steach said ConocoPhillips has a long-term goal of investing more in the more profitable “upstream” sector, which involves exploration and production of oil and gas. By comparison, refinery operations are less profitable.
Some analysts have speculated that ConocoPhillips may be interested in selling some of its refineries as part of its restructuring plan. While the Billings operation is the smallest of the company’s 16 refineries, it is also profitable and represents a strategic asset. “I’m not worried about the Billings refinery” being sold, Steach said.
ConocoPhillips reported $2.1 billion in first-quarter profits, up from $800 million for the same period in 2009, in part because of improving oil prices.
The company reported that it spudded three wells – that is, started drilling – in the Bakken shale play during March, and three more wells were placed into production.
May 14, 2010 at 5:12 pm #5626
Here is fairly good article & updated project/ coker items (ie Sumitomo made drums, only 2 drums @ 24X100 ….. think full project might had much larger unit than $50MM coke drum replacements going in. They mention the 1992 coker was $150 MM.
Also mentioned couple places the $500M upgrade was put on hold soon after Mulva’s visit in 2006 – methinks it may have something to do with larger push towards Bakken crude fields development than just tying into more Heavy CA Bitumen crude perhaps, since Bakken is mentioned couple times in same interview / article.
Also mentions COP decision to sell $10B in assets and that just COP’s portion of Syncrude netted it $4.65B already (think sale of Russian assets already mentioned will take it most rest way to that goal).
May 25, 2010 at 11:50 am #5606
Even bigger rigs moving through Montana next month
By KIM BRIGGEMAN, Missoulian | Posted: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 7:44 am
MISSOULA – Two mammoth coke drums manufactured in Japan and destined for the ConocoPhillips oil refinery in Billings sit in halves at the Port of Lewiston, Idaho, waiting for transport approval from the Idaho and Montana departments of transportation.
The drums will make up four loads that will be four feet wider than the biggest of the roughly 200 “big rigs” that a different oil giant, Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil Canada, wants to move to mining fields in Alberta, Canada, starting in the fall.
If approved, both transport plans will pass through Missoula from Lolo Pass. ConocoPhillips’ mover Emmert International has proposed a route that will include Helena, Lewistown and the side streets of Billings, and it would like to start as early as June 7.
Meanwhile, MDT is reviewing the overwhelming number of comments it received from Montanans concerning an environmental assessment of ExxonMobil’s Kearl Module Transport Project to Canada. A 30-day comment period closed May 14, two days after a mass e-mailing orchestrated by a Missoula-based environmental group opposing the project jammed the department’s computers.
“I know that the highest count we got before somebody locked us up was about 6,500 e-mails,” said Dwayne Kailey of MDT.
“We are working with (Exxon) and trying to have everything done by the end of June as far as the environmental document, but that’s a tentative schedule based on what MEPA requires, and it requires that we review and address every single comment,” Kailey said.
Because it involves just two convoys of two loads apiece, the ConocoPhillips project to Billings didn’t warrant an environmental assessment, Kailey said. But it is subject to Montana Environmental Policy Act, or MEPA, guidelines.
“It was viewed as being a much smaller impact, much smaller issue, just from the standpoint of the number of loads. That was big enough reason to do a smaller document,” he said.
The Billings transport project wasn’t mentioned at public hearings for the Canada project, Kailey admitted.
“I apologize for that,” he said. “It has been talked about, but the magnitude of this compared to Exxon’s has been apples and oranges. It hasn’t been highlighted or day-lighted nearly as much as Exxon’s.”
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Doral Hoff, district maintenance engineer for the Idaho Department of Transportation, said he’ll meet with Emmert officials Tuesday to discuss the logistics on his side of the mountain.
Though the dimensions that Hoff has received from the company have fluctuated, he said the loads will probably be 29 feet wide and 26 1/2 feet high. Those compare with narrower (24 feet) but taller (30 feet) dimensions of the largest of the loads in the Kearl transport project.
Reports of the weight of the oil drums vary from 300,000 to 375,000 pounds, or 600 to 750 tons. The weight will be distributed over multiple axles on trailers that are currently being built in a container yard at the Port of Lewiston, where they were unloaded from a barge on May 17.
Emmert plans to mirror Imperial Oil’s proposed course along the Clearwater and Lochsa rivers on U.S. Highway 12, entering Montana at Lolo Pass.
Like the Imperial Oil plan, the rigs will require two lanes and frequent turnouts to keep from blocking traffic for longer than 15 minutes in Idaho and 10 minutes in Montana. Kailey said ConocoPhillips won’t modify traffic signals on Reserve Street in Missoula, as ExxonMobil plans to do.
“What they’re showing us right now – and we’re still working with them on it – is basically stopping traffic and actually snaking them through the signals,” he said. “They’d kind of go to the right of one signal and go to the left of the next signal and back into their lane.”
Instead of installing turnouts at frequent intervals, ConocoPhillips and Emmert is looking at using existing wide spots in the road to let traffic by, he said. The company plans to temporarily relocate 800 power lines in the state.
Night travel, as is proposed for the Canadian route, is “one of the options we’re working with now,” Kailey added.
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From Missoula, the four Billings-bound rigs would travel on Interstate 90 to Bonner, where they would exit onto a secondary road through Milltown and Piltzville to avoid an overpass at the Bonner interchange. Back on the interstate, they’d exit again at Garrison and continue on Highway 12 over MacDonald Pass and through Helena. Kailey said the route would probably take the loads through Townsend, Martinsdale, Judith Gap, Lewistown, Grass Range, Roundup and into Billings.
The cylindrical drums are the main components of a $50 million upgrade to the Billings refinery. The Billings Gazette reported on May 16 that ConocoPhillips, in a related move, is moving about five people to Billings to focus on production in the Bakken oil field of eastern Montana and North Dakota.
Montana state officials have repeatedly emphasized the proposed permanent alterations on Montana’s roadways planned by ExxonMobil don’t mean a permanent “high and wide” transport corridor is planned. Critics have vigorously maintained the opposite.
Kailey said the mass volume of comments on the environmental assessment of the Kearl Module Transport Project was unexpected. He said Northern Rockies Rising Tide, which has spearheaded opposition to the project, must have used “some kind of special computer system” to jam the system on the morning of May 12.
“That’s fine. It was an education situation for us,” he said. “Live and learn. We think we’ve taken action to where it won’t happen again.”
Kailey said Rising Tide contacted the transportation department “to let us know they were aware our computers had locked up, and they wanted to know what we were doing about it.”
Nick Stocks, spokesman and co-founder of Rising Tide, could not be reached Monday for comment.
A message on MDT’s website apologized for the hangup. After the computers were fixed the same morning. anyone whose comment was rejected received notification so they could resubmit. Most of the comments that gummed up the works carried the same message, Kailey said.
As part of the review process, MDT is copying each comment to Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil, which will be responsible for mitigating concerns. The department will ultimately review Exxon’s responses to make sure they’re appropriate before issuing a transport permit.
Kim Briggeman can be reached at 523-5266 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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