Valero invests in Louisiana refining projects

Valero Energy Corp. is investing $400 million to expand alkylation capacity at subsidiary Valero Refining New Orleans LLC’s 340,000-b/d St. Charles refinery in Norco, La.

Apr 25th, 2019

Valero Energy Corp. is investing $400 million to expand alkylation capacity at subsidiary Valero Refining New Orleans LLC’s 340,000-b/d St. Charles refinery in Norco, La. (OGJ Online, Mar. 1, 2018).

The previously announced project will increase the existing unit’s capacity to convert isobutane and low modular-weight alkenes into alkylate for high-octane gasoline, the Louisiana Economic Development (LED) said.

The alkylation unit expansion also will include new pipes, feed driers, an olefin feeder, accumulator, and other unidentified components, according to LED.

Already in its execution phase and still scheduled for startup in 2020, the project will expand alkylation capacity at St. Charles by 17,000 b/d, Valero said in an April presentation to investors.

A similar $300-million alkylation project scheduled for commissioning in second-quarter 2019 is under way at Valero’s 250,000-b/d Houston refinery that will expand alkylation capacity at the Texas site by 13,000 b/d, the operator said.

Renewable fuels investment

Separately, Valero subsidiary Diamond Alternative Energy LLC and partner Darling Ingredients Inc. will invest a combined $1.1 billion to expand to their joint-venture Diamond Green Diesel’s 275 million-gal/year renewable diesel refinery in Norco, LED said.

The 400 million-gal/year expansion of the refinery—already North America’s largest renewable diesel plant—will increase renewable diesel production at the site to about 675 million gal/year to make it the second-largest plant of its kind in the world, according to LED.

Scheduled to be completed in late 2021, the project will involve construction of a second renewable diesel plant and renewable naphtha finishing installation (Train 2) adjacent to the Diamond Green Diesel refinery’s existing Train 1.

Addressing its $550-million portion of its investment into the Diamond Green Diesel refinery—which processes edible and inedible bionutrients such as animal fats, used cooking oil, and inedible corn oil into renewable diesel both compatible with petroleum-based diesel and transportable via pipeline—Valero said it expects margins to be supported by increasing renewable fuel mandates and carbon pricing.

Qualified biodiesel producers or blenders also are eligible for an income tax credit of $1/gal of biodiesel or renewable diesel produced or used in the blending process, according to the US Internal Revenue service.

Other refining updates

Earlier this month, Valero told investors it expects to complete a $975-million coker project in 2022 at its 395,000-b/d in Port Arthur, Tex.

Designed to improve margins and light product yields, the project involves installation of a 55,000-b/d coker and sulfur recovery unit, creating two independent crude distillation unit (CDU)-vacuum distillation unit (VDU)-coker trains at the site.

Alongside improving turnaround efficiency and reducing maintenance-related lost margins, the project will enable full utilization of existing CDU capacity, reduce vacuum gas oil purchases, and increase heavy sour crude and resid processing capability as well as light product yields, Valero said.

Contact Robert Brelsford at rbrelsford@ogjonline.com.

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