Flint Hills, environmental groups reach accord on West refinery expansion

Flint Hills Resources has agreed to implement additional emissions-reduction measures and more-stringent monitoring for proposed projects aimed at increasing processing capabilities for Eagle Ford crude at its 230,000-b/d West refinery in Corpus Christi, Tex.

After opposition from environmental groups to the company’s proposed air pollution permits for the planned expansion of the refinery, Flint Hills, a unit of Koch Industries Inc., has reached an agreement with Environmental Integrity Project and the University of Texas Environmental Law Clinic, the company said.

The accord comes as part of Flint Hills’ announcement in 2012 that it planned to spend more than $250 million to revamp its Corpus Christi refinery to increase processing capacity of oil from the nearby Eagle Ford shale play (OGJ Online, Aug. 27, 2012).

While the West refinery was built to refine Texas-produced light, sweet crude, a decline in US supplies over time compelled Flint Hills to switch to an imported light, sweet crude slate as well as improve the plant’s capacity to refine heavier crudes, according to a project description for the expansion on the company’s web site.

As part of the recent settlement, Flint Hills said it will:

• Lower emission limits on several storage tanks at its West refinery.

• Set stack exhaust temperature limits for new and modified heaters, which will ensure that the heaters operate in a way that minimizes energy use.

• Establish lower sulfur dioxide limits on the combustion of fuel gas in heaters throughout the refinery.

• Engage a third party to perform energy efficiency audits on several key process units and heaters and identify future energy efficiency opportunities.

Projects related to the Corpus Christi expansion currently remain in the permitting stage with the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Flint Hills said.

Once those permits have been approved, projects related to the expansion still will require final corporate approval, according to the company’s web site.

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