Total announces expansion of Port Arthur refinery

Marilyn Tennissen Feb. 14, 2008, 4:24am

Total Petrochemicals Port Arthur refinery

As Mayor Deloris Prince said Wednesday, good things keep happening to the city of Port Arthur.

City leaders are still reeling from the recent announcement of a $7 billion expansion of the Motiva refinery, and they were celebrating again on Feb. 13 as Total Petrochemicals announced it was investing $2.2 billion in its Port Arthur refinery.

The Paris-based refiner is planning to build a 50,000 barrel-per-day coker unit, a sulfur recovery unit and a vacuum distillation unit in Port Arthur. Total, in a join venture with BASF, already has the world's largest naphtha steam cracker adjacent to the refinery.

Up to 2,200 people will be working on the project that is set for commissioning in 2011.

The announcement from Total brings the current investments in Southeast Texas industrial facilities to almost $13 billion. Five major companies are undergoing expansions and upgrades, bringing thousands of construction jobs and millions to the tax base.

The influx of workers is creating a housing boom in Southeast Texas -- contrary to the bust going on in the rest of the country -- and increasing enrollment in local workforce training programs and educational institutions.

"I was thinking about how blessed we are in the city of Port Arthur," Prince said to the hundreds of local elected officials and community leaders gathered at the Holiday Inn Park Central for the announcement. "God has shown favor on Port Arthur, for whatever reason I don't know."

Total's Port Arthur project will expand heavy and sour crude oil processing, adding 3 million tons per year of low sulfur automotive diesel fuel to the refinery's production and raise total output for all products from the refinery to about 12 million tons.

Refinery Manager Darrell Jacob said the trend towards growth and expansion in the petrochemical industry began five or six years ago, as emerging markets in India, China and Brazil began to tip the supply and demand scale.

"There were times when the supply numbers began to touch demand numbers, and sometimes there were shortages," Jacob said at the press conference.

He cited the temporary shortage that occurred after hurricanes Katrina and Rita knocked out production in many of the production facilities on the Gulf Coast in 2005 as evidence of the delicate balance.

"We believe the increased demand is going to keep increasing," he said. "And that will justify our investment in this project."

Total, is the world's fourth-largest oil and gas company and the leading refiner-marketer in Europe. Total acquired the Port Arthur facility in 1973.

It has 7,500 employees in the U.S. at 74 sites in 29 states. Overall, it operates in more than 130 countries and employs 95,000 people in exploration and production of oil and natural gas, refining and marketing, gas trading, electricity and chemicals.

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