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White House Directs Refineries to Postpone Maintenance, Forget ULSD

The Financial Times reports in its 8 Sep edition that the White House has told US refiners to postpone all scheduled maintenance in a drive to maximize gasoline and diesel production.

The instructions come in the wake of the latest DOE forecast of an average price for oil of around $70 per barrel in September ($67 in the event of a very fast recovery from Katrina; more than $72 in the case of a slow recovery).

Washington has also told refiners to stop producing ultra low-sulfur diesel to increase gasoline output, according to the report.

A senior executive from a big refinery in Houston said: “The message from the government is: ‘run the refinery as high as you can and avoid all the non-priority maintenance in the next four or six weeks’.”

A Louisiana refiner said: “The White House said: ‘Forget about (ultra) low-sulphur diesel. We need gasoline and diesel. We need you working 100 per cent’.”

New regulations on producing ultra-clean diesel were due in January but are now likely to be postponed, refiners said.

Postponing maintenance is a dangerous game—especially when running at full capacity—that can lead to serious accidents. Reducing fuel quality standards may make sense in a very short term emergency, but in the long-term would have negative impacts not only on public health, but also on the engines and exhaust systems that are being (expensively) developed anticipating the availability of clean fuel.



I'm shocked, shocked I tell you. Imagine this administration more interested in pumping out more oil/gasoline than environmental protection, public health, or occupational health. Shocked!


Bush knows that the economy is an oil junkie, so there's no way he will choose clean fuel over enough fuel. It's taking a step back, but I wouldn't say it's shocking. Other reports tell of refiners limiting their output on purpose to drive up prices. They also find ways to encourage consumption, I'm sure you can imagine who was happy to help them out.


So he proposes to spread the enviromental disaster in Louisiana all over the country.


That's absurd, tom; this is a delay of new regulations and a slight rollback (sulfur levels) which will give us some more particulates and acid rain for a while.  It's not catastrophic or irreversible.

What it will do is increase refinery efficiency (not just throughput but output per barrel), which is very important given our crude-supply crunch.  This is crucial for meeting needs for heating oil and LPG this winter.

Of course, if the administration really wanted to conserve heating fuel we could stop wasting it in ethanol distilleries.

Heiko Gerhauser

Engineer-Poet's got a pathological hatred of ethanol.

His calculation is silly. Most houses in the US are heated with nat gas, oil or electricity.

He'd have people install coal fired furnaces instead, and call it a great deal, because the coal is so much cheaper than either nat gas, oil or electricity, and because the coal would also be used so much more efficiently than in coal fired power plants.

Ethanol is a high value fuel, like gasoline or electricity, it's worth more per kWh than coal or wood or corn.

There's a conversion loss, which, however, is more than made up by the value gained. Which explains why burning ethanol in cars today is a good choice, and burning wood isn't for most people, because they don't want to have to manually fill their wood stove every few hours and consequently would rather pay a bit more to heat electrically or with nat gas.

For drivers, however, it makes no difference whether they burn gasoline or E10, except that ethanol is so much cheaper to produce compared to current wholesale gasoline prices, that this is really a good deal.


I burned a tank of E10 during my last trip west in my Honda Civic Hybrid.

Couldn't tell the difference.

It's obvious to everybody but Republicans that when all the fossil fuel is gone, we are going to become a renewable fuels civilization. Right now, that means BioDiesel and Alcohol.

(Or Horses)

richard schumacher

Send comments to , or perhaps more usefully,

Harvey D

Let's consume more and pollute even more seems to be the order of the day. Future clean ups will be a major task, if we are still around. How about our children and grand children.....they will have to fix it?


Heiko must be married to a distiller, because he can't explain why people would be angry about a scheme which cuts the available energy from a bushel from 374 kBTU to 220 kBTU, consumes LPG and natural gas required for heating fuel before a winter when severe shortages are certain, and takes the taxpayer's money to do it.

Heiko Gerhauser

That calculation leaves out by-products, which could be burnt, but are actually more valuable as animal feed.

The micro-organisms don't consume much energy, so ethanol plus by-products isn't too far away from the original corn.

Most of the distilling requirement is low grade heat, and low grade heat provided at large scale is quite cheap.

Heiko Gerhauser

Hi Lucas,

yes indeed, ethanol and biodiesel are the two renewable fuels for transportation today.

Batteries aren't up to the job yet, nat gas isn't renewable and you can't just mix it with gasoline or diesel, as is the case for ethanol and biodiesel. Instead you need a CNG tank, which takes up space and is expensive, and nat gas gives poor range as well.


The government aught to mandate the ethanol producers to operate closed loop since they "produce energy" they should be self sustaining, especially when government funding is involved.

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