On 29 February 2000, Exxon Mobil USA announced the start of construction of the new delayed coker at its existing Baytown Refinery. The project was initiated in November 1998 when Exxon Mobil awarded the contract to provide Conoco-licensed delayed coking technology for two of Exxon’s refineries, to the Conoco-Bechtel Coker Technology Alliance, a business unit of the Bechtel Corporation. The plant began operations on the 19th December 2001.
The addition of the 40,000 barrels/day coker to the Baytown refinery is part of Exxon Mobil’s recently announced crude oil supply agreement with the Mexican state oil company, Petroleos Mexicanos. The Conoco coking process is based on more than 40 years of operating experience by Conoco.
The investment was undertaken due to the fact that the new delayed coker and related facilities will enable Exxon Mobil to better process heavy crude oil feedstocks, including Maya crude. It is therefore ensuring that the plant is producing cleaner, higher-valued fuels at a lower cost. Under the terms of a supply agreement agreement that was signed in September 1998, Pemex is supplying 65,000 barrels/day of Maya crude oil to the refinery. The Baytown Refinery processes approximately 465,000 barrels/day of crude.
The 40,000 barrels/day coker will also allow the refinery to eliminate the production of low value, heavy fuel oil and increase production of higher value, cleaner burning fuels.
This will provide an additional supply of competitively priced heavy crude oil for Exxon Mobil and further improve the competitiveness of Exxon Mobil’s Baytown manufacturing complex, already one of the largest in the USA with fuels conversion, lubes and petrochemical facilities. Therefore, the company will be able to meet two aims simultaneously. It will move into higher margin products, whilst improving its environmental conditions.
PLANT PRODUCTION AND COST
Exxon Mobil selected a total of four firms to build the coker and its related facilities. Bechtel Corporation was chosen to design, develop and construct the delayed coker process unit; Fluor Daniel Company is in charge of making modifications to existing utility and processing units; TPA Inc. will take charge of work for the sulphur recovery facilities and GDS Inc. for site clearance, coke handling and control systems.
Exxon Mobil’s activities in Baytown currently include a refinery, two manufacturing plants and two research centres. In all, the company’s presence in the area will provide work for more than 4,000 employees and 2,000 contractors during the construction period.
Under the Conoco-Bechtel Alliance, which was formed in 1994, Bechtel operates as Conoco’s exclusive worldwide partner to market the Conoco Coking Process. This allows Bechtel access to Conoco’s valuable process technology. Usually the most valuable element in such a project is the process technology license, which can be worth much more than the actual physical equipment, so this is a significant boon to Bechtel. Furthermore, the ability to install a cutting edge technology is a major advantage in winning contracts. The advantage for Conoco is that by teaming up with such a well known contractor with a world wide network, it shares in Bechtel’s profits.