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Marathon Oil Begins Construction on Detroit Refinery Heavy Oil Upgrade Project

Marathon Oil Corporation has begun construction of the estimated $1.9 billion heavy oil upgrading project at its Detroit refinery, following issuance of an air quality permit by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).

With expected completion in late 2010, the Heavy Oil Upgrade Project (HOUP) will increase the refinery’s total capacity from 102,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 115,000 bpd, which will include an additional 80,000 bpd of heavy oil capacity. The increased refining capacity will supply more than 400,000 additional gallons of clean transportation fuels a day to the marketplace.

The refinery upgrades include adding a new processing unit called a delayed coker. The 28,000 bpd coker converts asphalt-like material into liquid petroleum fuel blend components and petroleum coke (a coal-like substance). It also will allow the refinery to thermally convert and upgrade heavy Canadian crude oil into higher quality products such as gasoline, diesel and petroleum coke.

Additional emission reducing technologies being installed include:

  • Sulfur Recovery Complex. This 280-long-ton per day complex recovers sulfur removed from fuels.

  • Ultra Low NOx Burners / Selective Catalytic Reduction System to control NOx emissions.

  • 33,000 bpd Distillate Hydrotreater to remove sulfur from diesel fuel and kerosene to greatly reduce sulfur emissions.

  • Hydrogen Plant to produce hydrogen at a rate of 58 million standard cubic feet per day for use in hydrotreating units that remove sulfur from motor fuels.

Fluor Corporation will provide integrated engineering, procurement and construction services for the refinery project.

As part of the HOUP, Marathon is building a new 29-mile section to connect to the company’s existing crude oil pipeline to deliver additional supplies of Canadian crude.

Marathon is the fifth largest refiner in the US, with capacity of 1,016,000 bpd in its seven-refinery system.



How sad.
We hear of the nasty side to Canadion tar oil extraction this shows the next stage.
It's never better not to know. Seems tar sand fuels are coming to a store near you.


Considering heavy oil is more plentiful than the light, sweet stuff, I'm not at all surprised.


Would you want to invest in a regular refinery for light sweet at this stage?

The Scoot

It appears that Marathon may very well be investing in the fuel of the 1980s. Assuming that oil prices stay steady for the next two years, the HEVs, PHEVs, and BEVs will sip this new fuel or snub their noses at it entirely.

China and India certainly are not going to stop buying oil, but North America is poised to switch to electricity, and quick.



Even PHEVs will need gasoline. And you can only replace the vehicle fleet so quickly. If EVs and PHEVS debuted at sub-$20k prices, there would be rapid adoption only limited by how many can be produced (like Toyota's supply difficulties with the Prius). But the Volt will be twice that.

The fact remains that light, sweet oil is becoming less plentiful, so refineries must retool to process heavy stuff.


That's the crux of the issue. Investments have been made in old technologies including bigger heavier faster whether they are appropriate or not When consumers have a say, the developers either get it right or it sinks. When a captive market is offered little option but to accept whats on offer, as in times of shortage the options are limited.
When society embarks on course that leads down a dead end lane, again there are few options.
When legislators fail to recognise alternatives and assist producers of damaging industries, It points to a failure in the system.
The free enterprise economic market model benefits at the expense of ordinary people who are not that well informed.
It is not appropriate to give the green light to industries that perform poorly as it sends the wrong message to others who are already joining the rush both domestically and globally.
Far from suggesting investments in light sweet.
I'm suggesting the stalling is about protecting capital from real market forces by allowing previously unheard of levels of damaging practices when policies are not in place to limit the consequenses.
I dont expect best practice is possible everytime, Merely questioning the rationale and inconsistancies.

The Scoot

Cervus, the sub-20k market is saturated with Aveos, Yarises, Fits, and the like. All of them ICEs. No, HEVs, PHEVs, and BEVs will be sold to the upper middle class first.

In anything, the poor don't really affect the economy all that much.

John Taylor

People are converting their old cars gas to electric.
1 car with dead ICE = $ 50
12 led acid batteries = $1200
1 Electric motor = $2000
1 Control system = $3000
lots of work
total $ 6250 plus a bit. Still less than $10,000
the led acid batteries only go 100km and a Li pack goes 3x further if you spend the money on it.

Thing is, the Battery Electric car is easy to make with existing available technology. Nothing new needs invented. All parts are available.
It sure looks like big car companies could offer a BEV at a very cheap price if they wanted to. Lots of people are not waiting for the big companies, but making their own BEV cars and trucks.

It may very well be local guys in local garages who continue the change in transportation until it becomes mainstream.
But we will change, despite $1.9 billion upgrades to oil infrastructure and zero investment in BEV infrastructure by the big corporations.


John Taylor, could you point out the sources of these components, especially motors and controllers? Also any tips about steering (how to make it into electric) and possibly air conditioning. I would love to convert an old Jaguar.


Start here:

There is a resource page that has links to the parts listed. The site is also a chronicle of one persons goal of converting a car to all electric.


URL correction:


Here is another URL with a great BMW 325i EV conversion:

He is using an elegant, small, variable speed, DC, brushless AC compressor made by Masterflux division of Tecumsah, URL here:

Robert Dinse

It's going to take time to get non-fossil fuel energy infrastructure in place. If we don't do what we need to do to have fuel in the meantime we're going to starve to death.

There are all sorts of technical reasons given for the current economic chaos, but at the bottom of it all is energy supply that is inadequate to meet demand.

We also have other source of heavy oil in the USA, there is as much heavy oil in California as in Venuzuela.

The battery technology necessary for a usable electric vehicle fleet has been developed but not scaled up yet to levels needed for large scale fleet replacement.

If we don't get our economy back on track nobody will be able to afford to replace their gasoline vehicles. We need a functional economy to provide the capital for sustainable energy infrastructure.

We need to do what we need to do to keep our civilization powered and functional in the meantime, but we mustn't get complacent and not continue to move forward with clean renewable energy sources just because we have a short term fix. The heavy oil will run out too, so will coal, and both will be more environmentally harmful than sweet light crude because they are richer in both carbon relative to hydrogen, as well as sulfur, mercury, and other contaminants.

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