ExxonMobil refinery runs at reduced rates

2011-07-20T19:30:00Z 2011-07-21T08:00:13Z ExxonMobil refinery runs at reduced rates

By CLAIR JOHNSON

Of The Gazette Staff

The Billings Gazette

The ExxonMobil refinery is continuing to operate at reduced rates as it works to find other methods to transport crude oil to the plant in the wake of its July 1 pipeline break in the Yellowstone River.

“We are still running all of our units at reduced rates,” said Pam Malek, an ExxonMobil refinery spokeswoman.

The refinery has not yet had to shift to maintenance work because of reduced crude oil supplies, she said.

The refinery is receiving tanker truck shipments of crude oil but is not yet getting rail tankers, Malek said.

Rachael Moore, another spokeswoman for ExxonMobil, declined to say how much crude oil the refinery was receiving or processing, saying the company does not comment on daily volumes.

In 2010, the refinery processed 18.4 million barrels of crude oil, or about 50,000 barrels a day, said Jim Hughes, an environmental specialist with Montana Department of Environmental Quality.

The pipeline rupture spilled an estimated 1,000 barrels or about 42,000 gallons of oil into the river.

ExxonMobil’s reduced operations because of the pipeline break prompted the company to postpone a scheduled air quality test for particulates on the stack of its main crude processing unit, Hughes said. The unit is not running at a high enough rate to conduct the test, he said. Other, more routine air quality testing also has been postponed.

ExxonMobil’s reduced operations also has affected its neighbor, Montana Sulphur & Chemical Co., which processes refinery waste gases into fertilizer products.

“We’re running at reduced rates also,” said MSCC President Larry Zink. There are no plans for staff cutbacks because of reduced operations, he said.

Contact Clair Johnson at cjohnson@billingsgazette.com or 657-1282.

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