THE 2006 acquisition of an asphalt plant and terminal in El Paso, Texas, has enhanced Western Refining Inc's earlier purchase in 2003 of an adjacent refinery and fuels terminal.
Today, tank trucks are moving at a steady clip throughout both facilities. About 200 transports are loaded per day at the clean fuels racks. During the summer when construction industry demand is at its height, about 50 trucks per day load at the asphalt racks. When the season levels off, activity drops to about 30 asphalt tank trailers a day.
Although a smaller part of the operation, a propane section has storage tanks with 6,000-barrel capacity and the capability of loading two tank trailers at a time. About 15 transports are loaded per day.
Into this mix, Western Refining set up its fuels operation to handle ultra low sulfur diesel (ULSD) as mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2006. A new ULSD production facility was constructed at the company's refinery adjacent to the terminal and refines about 30,000 barrels of ULSD per day. Total refinery production is about 127,000 barrels per day.
Victor Nevarez, logistics and transportation manager, recalls that when he started his career in the petroleum industry in 1982, the color of diesel was orange because of the high-sulfur content. “By 1994, with 500 ppm (sulfur parts per million of the product) required, it was a clear yellow,” he says. “Today with ULSD having to be 15 ppm, it's practically clear.”
Western Refining no longer handles any diesels other than ULSD for on-road use. High sulfur diesel is refined for railroad and mine operations. Over 90% of the products produced at the refinery are light transportation fuels, including gasoline, ULSD, and jet fuel. Approximately 30% of the company's sales are in El Paso. The remaining 70% comes from product shipped by pipeline and rail to other markets.
The El Paso facility offers a storage capacity of about four-million barrels among 162 tanks. Western Refining uses a Honeywell 3000 digital automation system from Emerson Process Management for controlling, processing, and monitoring storage tanks and their products. The asphalt facility uses a Delta V digital automation system from Emerson Processing Equipment to monitor the asphalt finishing and production operation.
The refinery and its bulk storage tanks supply ULSD, gasoline, and jet fuel at the five-lane loading facility, which segregates the various fuels through dedicated and color-coded piping and hoses to avoid product cross-contamination. The rack equipment also blends ethanol with gasoline.
Drivers use a loading system at the rack that includes equipment from Toptech Systems Inc, Liquid Controls, and FMC Technologies. After presenting an identification card to an automatic scanner to gain entry to the system, drivers select type and amount of product. When loading is completed the system shuts down automatically and prints a bill of lading for the driver.
Nevarez points out that the system equipment is calibrated quarterly and certification is outsourced to an auditing firm to further establish accuracy.
Equipment at the loading racks includes OPW and Emco Wheaton loading arms and API couplers, Titan Industry injectors, and Gould pumps.
At the asphalt terminal, two trucks can be loaded at the same time at one rack, and another rack has the capability to load four trucks. Vehicles are weighed as they enter the terminal and again as they leave to verify amount of product loaded.
In addition to trucking, there are 20 railcar spots available for shipping the product. The company leases approximately 250 railcars and has access to Union Pacific Railroad main lines. Any solid wastes captured on site also are shipped out via rail to disposal facilities.
Propane handling has similar logistics. The loading rack can fill two transports at a time. After the transports are weighed, the Top Tech program processes the information for administrative purposes and prints a bill of lading for drivers.
To reduce emissions, the terminals have John Zink Co combustion equipment that captures vapor from the loading racks and storage tank vents. The system allows the company to significantly reduce volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions, as well as recovering usable product.
While efficient loading systems at the racks were paramount in the company's planning, safety and security also were a top priority. As part of its safety and security program, the company installed fire alarm systems from SimplexGrinnell and Protectowire Co that include foam deluge response in the event of an incident.
Certain Western Refining employees are designated as emergency response personnel and wear red coveralls to distinguish them from other terminal workers who are dressed in blue coveralls.
A key component of Western Refining's safety commitment is its ongoing awareness program that includes delivering education and public safety information to the public, as well as neighboring companies. In addition, Western Refining conducts emergency response training sessions with the El Paso Fire Department and employs one of the department's retired fire chiefs as part of its safety team.
For site security monitoring, the company chose equipment from Securitas Security Services. Entrances to the facilities are gated and have guards on duty 24/7. Drivers are issued Western Refining identification cards after they have been authorized by their carriers and completed loading training at the terminal.
Carriers' veteran drivers oversee the training under the supervision of terminal employees. Drivers also receive company orientation, use of equipment, and safety instruction from terminal employees. After performing at least four loading procedures, and receiving signatures from the trainers, drivers are issued access authority. About 70 carriers have drivers certified to load at the terminal.
“Our operators talk to the carriers' dispatchers on a daily basis,” says Nevarez. “We try to give them a heads up on any delays that are occurring so that they can adjust their schedules, if necessary.”
Having good relations with the carriers is important to the company, Nevarez adds. “We want drivers to be satisfied with the service they receive here,” he says. To show appreciation for the drivers, Western Refining schedules driver appreciation days and treats them to food and drinks at the terminal.
The emphasis on service, coupled with recent acquisitions and renovations, are part of the company's growth as an independent crude oil refiner and marketer of refined products. The latest development is the proposed acquisition of Giant Industries Inc of Scottsdale, Arizona.
A refiner and marketer of petroleum products, Giant owns and operates one Virginia and two New Mexico crude oil refineries. In addition, the proposed acquisition would bring with it a crude oil gathering pipeline system based in Farmington, New Mexico, which services Giant's New Mexico refineries. Western Refining also would acquire Giant's finished products distribution terminals in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Flagstaff, Arizona, as well as a fleet of crude oil and finished product truck transports.
Western Refining operates primarily in the Southwest region of the United States, including Arizona, New Mexico, and West Texas. Western's primary markets for its products, in addition to El Paso, are Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona; and Albuquerque, New Mexico. The company also provides refined fuels for neighboring Juarez, Mexico.
The El Paso flagship encompasses about 500 acres and will soon include a hydrogen plant to be used in ULSD production. Another facility is underway that will provide acid for use in Western Refining's plant processes, as well as for customers.
These planned expansions and enhancements solidly position the company for continued growth to meet future market demands.