Marathon adding new coker unit

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 2, 1999

By LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / June 2, 1999

LAPLACE – An “extremely large project” at Marathon Ashland Petroleum in Garyville will bring on line a new $250 million coker unit, to begin construction next spring.

The plan was announced at the May 25 meeting of the St. John ParishCouncil, which approved the plant’s application to participate in the Louisiana Enterprise Zone program.

However, plant manager Larry Echelberger agreed to not apply for participation in the Louisiana Enterprise Zone program’s sales and use program refund, meaning as much as $2.8 million could pour into parishbank accounts, half of which goes to the school system.

However, Marathon will take advantage of the state’s 10-year property tax exemption program. Marathon is St. John Parish’s largest payer of propertytaxes, $7.3 million in 1998.The estimated value of purchased equipment is $70 million.

Echelberger called the planned development the biggest since the original upgrade in the late 1970s.

The new coker would produced 34,500 barrels per day, incorporating the latest technology and in full compliance with state and federal regulations.

Initial construction is due to begin in April 2000, with completion set for the fourth quarter of 2001. The project is anticipated to create more than900 construction jobs at its peak, with an average contractor employment base of 500 jobs. Upon completion, the project is expected to produce 40to 50 full-time Marathon jobs and 10 to 20 contractor jobs.

Echelberger told Councilman Joel McTopy, in response to his question, that “Our philosophy is to look first in the tri-parish area,” as regarding local hiring, but he refused to put on paper any hard and fast numbers.

Presently, nearly half of the company’s 455 employees are from St. JohnParish, and nearly three-quarters live in the River Parishes. Stateregulations only mandate 35 percent local hires.

Councilman Dale Wolfe commented he is “sick and tired of industry polluting and not hiring local people.” However, he added of Marathon, “Sofar as I’m concerned, you have a very clean slate.”The new coker unit will allow processing of heavier and lower-cost crude oils while increasing production of higher valued finished products.

The delayed coke breaks down the heaviest components of raw crude and converts them to lighter intermediate products, which are then refined into finished gasoline and diesel fuel.

McTopy also pressed Echelberger as to transportation of their products and was assured that though 2,500 tons per day of coke would be produced, most would be transported by water. Truck transport of coke would takeplace at most, 30 days per year. “If you do not truck there’s very littledust,” Echelberger said.

Other facilities will be constructed or modified to support the coker project, including a new, 250-tons per day sulfur recovery unit, revamps of two existing hydroelectric plants, and other refinery infrastructure.

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