On October 10, 2007, Sonhoe Development Co. unveiled plans to build a 200,000-bpsd Heavy Oil Upgrader in the Teesside county borough of North East England. The announcement was significant because the project would be Europe's first substantial new refinery in more than 30 years.
The combined hydro-cracking and gasification facility would be constructed on a brownfield site. The upgrader would process acidic, sulfurous, low-API crudes (API: 10-20; TAN: 2-10%; sulfur: 0-8%) sourced from North Sea, Latin America, Mideast, and Africa and produce premium-quality ultra-low-sulfur diesel (EU IV) for the European market. Other products would include kerosene and petrochemical naphtha. The gasification complex at the facility would produce 500-plus tonnes of hydrogen per day and 240,000 therms per day of synthetic gas. The synthesis gas would enable the upgrader to generate its own power and steam via a high-efficiency combined cycle heat and power plant. The facility would be one of Europe's largest hydrogen-producing plants.
The front end engineering and design (FEED) phase for the facility is underway and should conclude in 2009, when the project is expected to win needed approval from local authorities. Construction would begin in 2009 and start-up is slated for the 2012/2013 time frame. The complex should be completed by 2014 and have a 25-30-year service life.
A local news report in January 2009 stated that the project was on track and had not been hindered by the global credit crisis, which has led developers of other projects to postpone or even cancel their plans. Due diligence was still underway and the project developers were working "flat out" to make the new upgrader a reality, according to the report.
Sonhoe expects the project to support 2,000 to 2,500 construction jobs over four years. The completed facility would require approximately 400 permanent positions, and it would lead to the creation of up to 1,500 jobs in the region.