Marathon unveils expansion

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 27, 2010



GARYVILLE – Executives for Marathon Petroleum Co. said Thursday their newly expanded Garyville refinery is now running at full capacity and could eventually become the third largest in the nation.

Marathon President Gary Heminger told a room full of reporters the $3.9 billion Garyville Major Expansion project is the first new refinery to be built in the United States in 33 years.

“It is a masterpiece of engineering that will eventually be able to out perform its design criteria,” Heminger said. “I can tell you that this facility will be the most profitable in the United States because of our energy efficiency and reliability.”

The 180,000-barrel-per-day expansion, which equates to about 7.5 million gallons of clean transportation fuels, boosts the refinery’s capacity from 256,000 bpd to 436,000 bpd. The refinery produces gasoline, diesel and kerosene as well as asphalt from crude oil.

Heminger said the plant reached the capacity benchmark in early March, following completion of a planned turnaround where components of the older refinery were shut down, repaired and replaced. He said the new capacity number already makes the facility the fourth largest in the nation behind a Texas City, Texas, plant owned by British Petroleum that puts out 455,790 bpd, according to the most recent listing of refinery capacities done by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Rich Bedell, manager of the Garyville refinery, said expansion of the refinery’s capacity beyond its current nominal production capability will come as the new units are operated and their full capabilities are realized.

“As we improve efficiency and add new technology I think we can go well beyond the 450,000 bpd mark,” Bedell said.

Heminger said Marathon officials envisioned the expansion back in 2004 but were not able to officially break ground until late 2006 because of the arrival of Hurricane Katrina.

“We were going out for the permits right as the storm was about to hit,” Heminger said. “But the storm actually gave us great momentum to continue and finish the project. This is an ideal community with a strong workforce and an assortment of amenities that make import and export easy.”

Heminger said over the four-year construction process the expansion project employed more than 40,000 workers with about 9,600 on site at peak construction periods. He said $1.7 billion in construction contracts were awarded to Louisiana companies.

“It is the largest private sector project completed in Louisiana,” Heminger said, “and certainly the largest for Marathon.”

Marathon Public Affairs Manager Robert Calmus added the project also pumped more than $60 million in sales and use tax revenues into the local economy for St. John Parish and also created more than 270 new full time jobs.

“Our labor force lives and works here,” Calmus said. “We have a long history here as well as a tremendous level of support from parish leaders.”

Calmus said the expansion used enough steel to build more than 15,000 cars. He said crews laid down about 10 miles of newly paved road and installed more than 1,000 miles of wire and cable. With some major equipment arriving around the clock from all parts of the world, Calmus said the company also assembled a $3.5 million temporary bridge over the Mississippi River levee to connect to the refinery’s dock.

“We originally wanted to shore up the levee and run a road right through it, but after the hurricane, the Army Corps of Engineers became much more stringent with construction on the levee,” Calmus said. “As it turned out, the bridge over the levee and the road was more efficient.”