PBF Energy Inc. may convert an idled hydrocracker unit at its Chalmette refinery near New Orleans into a renewable diesel production complex, which could expand the job force and other opportunities.

refineries

The refining giant said it may invest $550 million to retrofit one hydrocracker unit that has been out of operation since 2010. Also being considered is a pretreatment unit that would allow the complex to create feedstocks from soybean oil, corn oil and other biogenically derived fats and oils.

“The devastating economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the energy industry is undeniable,” said PBF Chalmette refining manager Steven Krynski. “We’ve seen eight U.S. refineries shut down since the beginning of 2020, including one down the road in St. James Parish.

“PBF Energy is looking for projects that will create stability for our workforce, prepare the refinery for a green energy transition and help us recover from the losses of the last year and a half.”

Louisiana offers financial incentives that include the Industrial Tax Exemption and Quality Jobs programs. Those incentives “help make the numbers work, especially as our company and entire industry recover from the pandemic,” he said. With the support of our state and local leaders, I am hopeful we will be able to bring this project and its economic benefits to St. Bernard Parish.”

Gov. John Bel Edwards said the project, if it were to move forward, could create 20 direct jobs with average annual salaries of $70,000 and benefits. Louisiana Economic Development estimated the project also could result in 90 indirect jobs and 200 construction jobs. 

The Chalmette Refining complex, the largest private employer in St. Bernard Parish, would retain 516 existing jobs.

“Louisiana continues to position itself as a leading state for environmentally friendly energy production,” Edwards said. “This innovative project at Chalmette Refining is right in line with the goals set out by the Climate Initiatives Task Force I created last year. 

“With this major capital investment in a next-generation energy source and the creation of quality manufacturing jobs along the way, Louisiana would benefit from this project on many levels.”

PBF and potential partners “are considering Chalmette Refining along with other facilities for the renewable diesel project.” A final investment decision could be made after the local taxing authorities in St. Bernard Parish consider the project. 

The dual-train coking refinery today has 185,000 b/d of total capacity to process crude and produce gasoline, distillates and specialty chemicals. PBF also operates two refineries in California, and one refinery each in Delaware, New Jersey and Ohio.

“The Chalmette Refining facility has been a mainstay of our local economy for more than a century,” St. Bernard Parish President Guy McInnis said. “This important project would position the refinery for success in the years to come as it adapts to the new demands of our energy future. 

“Chalmette Refining is the parish’s top taxpayer and largest private employer, and support for this project will help to secure its future in St. Bernard Parish.”