(Corrects distance from Sweeny to Freeport and dock capacity in final paragraph.)
The U.S.’s most valuable refiner by market capitalization is conducting preliminary engineering on such a unit, Jim Webster, Phillips 66’s general manager for midstream, told reporters during a tour of the refinery 60 miles (95 kilometers) south of Houston.
The company hasn’t decided whether or where it would build a splitter, which separates ultra-light crude oil into unfinished products that could be sold to refineries or blenders or exported overseas. Sweeny is a possibility because it’s close to South Texas’s Eagle Ford shale formation, which produces mostly ultra-light oil.
Sweeny, which is distilling about 255,000 barrels of crude a day, doesn’t produce enough unfinished or intermediate products to fill all of its secondary units such as fluid catalytic crackers, refinery General Manager Willie Tempton Jr. said. Products from a splitter could go into those units.
Texas has four refining centers in Port Arthur, Houston, Texas City and Corpus Christi, where refineries can easily sell unneeded intermediate products to another plant where it’s a useful feedstock. Sweeny is relatively isolated, making it more difficult to obtain intermediate feedstocks from outside, said Chris Chandler, Phillips 66’s general manager of natural gas liquids.
The refinery is running about 60,000 to 70,000 barrels a day of mostly Eagle Ford crude through its low-sulfur crude unit, and about 190,000 barrels of sour crude a day through its other distillation tower, Tempton said.
The company is expanding natural gas liquids and export capabilities at the refinery. At the corner of NGL Road and LPG Road inside the complex, workers are preparing the ground for Phillips 66’s first wholly owned fractionator, which by 2015 will be able to convert about 100,000 barrels a day of mixed NGLs into ethane, propane, butane and natural gasoline.
It’s also upgrading docks 30 miles from the refinery in Freeport that it has historically used to import crude and export refined products. Phillips 66 by 2016 expects to be able to load at 36,000 barrels an hour of NGLs and refined oil products for export, as well as loading crude on vessels to send to some of its other refineries, Webster said.
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