Regulators approve Phillips 66’s California refinery improvement project

The governing board of California’s Contra Costa County has approved a permit for Phillips 66 to move forward with a proposed project that would enable enhanced recovery of marketable propane and butane at the Rodeo portion of its 120,000-b/d San Francisco refining complex.

The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors voted to approve the proposed land use permit for the project in a Feb. 3 meeting, the county said.

The project, which has garnered opposition from environmental and residential groups, proposes improvements to existing processing equipment at the Rodeo plant to support increased recovery of propane and butane from refinery fuel gas (RFG) and other process streams, according to project documents available at the county web site.

The recovered propane-butane volumes then would be shipped via rail for sale into commercial markets.

While the project would require the addition of some new and ancillary equipment necessary for propane-butane recovery, once implemented, the project also would reduce the plant’s sulfur dioxide emissions by removing sulfur compounds from the RFG streams that Rodeo currently burns for producing heat to fuel refining processes at the site.

To be built in two phases, Phase 1 of the project would include the addition of all processing components, while Phase 2 would involve the addition of all components related to both propane storage and rail loading.

Additions and modifications to associated installations, such as pumps, heat exchangers, instrumentation, utilities, and piping, would occur during both phases, according to project documents.

Specifically, the Rodeo project proposes the following elements:

• LPG recovery unit (Phase 1). New fractionation columns and absorber towers would be installed to recover propane and butane from the RFG streams. Heat would be provided by steam from either an existing steam-power plant or a new 140 million-BTU/hr steam boiler.

• Fuel gas hydrotreating (Phase 1). A new hydrotreater would be installed upstream of the propane recovery unit to decrease RFG sulfur content and improve propane product quality.

• Propane storage (Phase 2). Six propane storage vessels would be added.

• Tank car loading modifications (Phase 2). Existing butane tank car loading operations would be modified to accommodate the loading of propane. This would include installation of two new rail spurs as well as a new loading rack.

The project also would involve the removal of two 265-ft heat stacks from the Rodeo site.

A firm timeline for the project has yet to be disclosed.

Phillips 66’s San Francisco refining complex consists of the Rodeo refinery, located in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the Santa Maria refinery in Arroyo Grande, which are linked by a 200-mile pipeline.

Contact Robert Brelsford at

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