Constructed in 1903 in extreme Southeast Texas near the Gulf of Mexico, the present-day Motiva Port Arthur Refinery was built by Texaco after the historic Spindletop oil field was discovered two years earlier in nearby Beaumont. The facility earned the distinction of becoming Texas' first oil refinery.
Thanks to enhancements over subsequent decades, the facility's prominence in the U.S. refining industry grew and the refinery's crude processing capacity surpassed 400,000 b/d by the 1980s. However, a move to streamline the facility in the mid-Eighties caused that figure to decline dramatically.
In 1998 the refinery became part of Motiva Enterprises, which was a new joint venture owned by Texaco, Shell, and the Saudi Aramco subsidiary Saudi Refining, Inc. (SRI). Four years later, Texaco sold its interest in the company to Shell following its merger with Chevron. Shell and SRI each own a 50% stake in Motiva.
The major process units at the 275,000-b/d refinery include the following: crude atmospheric and vacuum distillation; hydrotreating; catalytic reforming; delayed coking; fluid catalytic cracking; hydrocracking; lube solvent refining; lube hydroprocessing; lube hydro-isomerization; lube propane deasphalting; and lube catalytic dewaxing. The facility produces gasoline, distillates, jet fuel, lubricant base oils, and chemicals/solvents.
In late-2007, Motiva launched a $7 billion expansion of the Port Arthur Refinery that will enable the facility to process heavier slates of crude oil. When the project concludes the capacity will jump to 600,000 b/d, making the facility the largest oil refinery in the U.S. The original completion date was 2010, but Motiva in March 2009 announced that it would delay the project by at least a year in response to poor market conditions.
According to a Motiva statement from December 2007, the upgrades and modernization will increase the Shell-Saudi Aramco joint venture's supply of Shell-branded fuels to the company's wholesale and direct supply markets. All told, some 23 million gallons of transportation fuels will be produced at the refinery on a daily basis.
Aside from boosting processing capacity, the project entails installing advanced technology to lower most types of emissions from refinery operations on a per-barrel basis. Motiva reported that the expansion will decrease emissions of the ozone precursors nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds.
Motiva expects the project to generate more than 4,500 construction jobs and 300 or more new full-time jobs at the expanded facility.
A Bechtel/Jacobs joint venture is managing the expansion as its engineering, procurement and construction contractor. Numerous local sub-contractors will contribute to the project.