Cyclone Power to Showcase External Combustion Engine at SAE Event
Study: N2O Emissions from Biofuel Crop Production Negates Greenhouse Gas Benefits of Using Biofuels

Shell to Expand Port Arthur Refinery To Be Largest in US

Shell Oil Company reached a final investment decision to proceed with a $7-billion 325,000 barrel-per-day (b/d) capacity expansion project at its joint venture Motiva’s refinery in Port Arthur, Texas.  The expansion project will increase the refinery’s crude oil throughput capacity to 600,000 b/d, making it the largest refinery in the US and one of the largest in the world.

The 325,000 b/d expansion at Port Arthur is equivalent to building the first new refinery in the US in more than 30 years.  Motiva Enterprises LLC is a refining and marketing joint venture owned by Shell and Saudi Aramco.

The Port Arthur Refinery began operations as the Texas Company’s (Texaco) first refinery in 1903 and was a direct by-product of the January 10, 1901, Lucas gusher and the resulting Spindletop oil boom at Beaumont.  In 1989, the refinery became part of Star Enterprise, a joint venture between Texaco and Saudi Aramco. The major refining process units include Atmospheric and Vacuum Crude Distillation, Fluid Catalytic Cracking, Resid Hydrocracking, Catalytic Reforming, Alkylation, Hydrotreating, Hydrogen Generation, and Sulfur Recovery.

Current production capacities are:

  • Crude: 275,000 b/d processed

  • Gasoline: 130,000 b/d, regular and premium grades

  • Jet-A aviation fuel: 42,000 b/d

  • Low sulfur diesel: 52,000 b/d

  • Fuel grade coke: 3,000 tons per day


Motiva’s expansion will lower most types of emissions from refinery operations on a per barrel basis by utilizing advanced technology in all new system installations and replacing existing systems, according to Shell. The expansion of the refinery will decrease emissions from present day levels for ozone precursors, specifically nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds.

The Port Arthur area is a non-attainment area for air pollution. According to the most recent point source emissions inventory data published by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality on the top point sources of emissions in the state, the Motiva Port Arthur refinery in 2005 emitted:

Port Arthur Refinery Emissions Inventory 2005
(tons per year)
304.164 304.163 1,295.425 2,406.131 187.589 389.814

Based on the data, the Port Arthur Refinery was the 35th largest point source of NOx emissions and the 13th largest point source of VOC in the state.



Now $7 billion for this expansion. Alternatively it could be used to build corn ethanol factories. Poet’s newest factory does 65 million gallons per year and cost $105 millions.

For $7 billion you get 65*(7000/105) = 4333 million gallons per year of corn ethanol factories. That is (4333000000/(42*365) ) = 282670 barrels per day of ethanol more than enough to make up for this expansion.

Ban this expansion ASAP. It will increase US oil dependence. Building this refinery is a continuation of an energy policy pervaded by a total lack of foresight.


I don't think this is an either/or, fosil vs alternative. Cleaner, better refining capacity is needed for the short term. I can't wait until what comes out the tailpipe is cleaner than what went in. But, that kind of technology is moving very slowly.

So no refining capacity has been built in the US since the 70's, yet stories appear about refineries going up in the developing world (Venezuela, India, even Africa). I assume the reasons are that the labor and capital costs are significantly cheaper, and the outlook is for the local markets to grow, while the outlook for the US in the short to mid term is for the dollar to keep sliding along with buying power. Interesting and probably not coincidental that Shell and Aramco make a move as the Euro is at a high against the US dollar.

Though oil prices and profits are at a high, many prominent Republicans, like Bush, Domenici and Hatch, have said the US taxpayer should subsidize the construction of these plants in the US (probably while Barry Goldwater rolls over in his grave :-)

My 2 cents is that it's preferable to leave things alone. It might profit oil companies to keep gas prices high, but high prices can also encourage conservation by consumers, and help oil alternatives to grow, at a time when issues of global warming and peak oil are finally being recognized in the public debate. Oil refineries are a poor investment for the long-term. Here in the US, there's such poor emissions regulation and so little public investment in alternative energies vis a vis Europe that we are basically left only with market forces to induce beneficial changes in this area.


Joseph: Refining capacity is added every year in the US, you just don't read about it much. Over the last few years the equivalent of 2 new refineries have been built by adding capacity to existing ones.

tom deplume

Anybody else see the stupidity of investng $7 billion in a prime hurricane target area as well as a prime tornado/flood target zone?

Larry White

I live in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas area. We use SIX
Million gallons per day of gasoline for the SIX Million people in DFW. And, by the way, the other 50% of the fuel is SIX Million gallons per day of Diesel. Some say
that cannot be because there are more cars, but your car
just sets in the lot all day and the much lower mileage trucks are driving around all day.

So, that works out to 2 gal/person/day of transportation fuels. You all can do the math in your home town. If your population has increased, where does all of the additional gas and diesel for each new person in your area come from? 63% of the nation's gasoline comes from the Houston area. Gas and diesel is just like any other commodity. The market will meet the demand at the most acceptable price. EXCEPT when we do not have a choice in the market.

I strongly believe that changes in behavior can have a stronger positive effect than price alone. For example, we estimate that 35% of all workers using today's technology could work from home or an office nearer to their homes. Think about that 35% of 220,000,000 million workers x just ONE gallon per day. The productivity gains alone are staggering. The savings in airconditioning the offices that these workers currently consume would save billions of $ for their employers. Fewer tires, less engine oil, less Freons leaked. Your car would last several years and hold its value. As Apple says, "Think Different".

The comments to this entry are closed.