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A checklist from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality dated Jan. 8 has revealed more details about the planned improvements by Plains All American Pipeline to the former Yorktown refinery. It is now known as a terminal as it will no longer function as a refinery.
PAA has submitted permit applications to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the site. A proposal summary from documentation filed with VDEQ shows crude oil will be shipped by rail to the terminal where it will be unloaded into storage tanks before it is transferred to a dock on site and loaded onto ships for delivery to refineries along the East Coast.
In order to accomplish this end, PAA needs to upgrade a number of parts of the existing refinery facility, including the existing rail track, the existing intra-facility piping and the existing dock piping and loading/unloading equipment, according to the summary.
The terminal needs a marine loading system to place crude oil on barges and ships at a maximum of 20,000 barrels per hour, which according to the checklist means a requested throughput of 140,000 barrels per day or 52 million barrels per year. To achieve this, the facility will receive up to 800 trains per year with up to 104 railcars carrying an estimated 60-65,000 barrels per train.
The improvements, which will cost about $35 million, are expected to be finished by the first half of this year.
According to a June interview with Roy Lamoreaux, director of investment relations for PAA, about 30 employees now work at the facility. If the full expansion goes through, the number of full-time or contract employees could more than double.
When Western Refining closed the site in 2010, about 250 people were employed there, plus an additional 100 contractors. Production stopped in mid-September 2010, though Western Refining continued to operate the products terminal.
The loss of the refinery in 2010 was a significant blow to York County’s tax revenue, with the closure estimated to have cost the county more than $3.4 million in tax revenue—in 2011, the refinery paid $4.6 million in taxes, however that number declined significantly in 2012. When the facility is operational again, York County could be seeing some of that money return to the coffers.
One area of concern for regulators is the potential impact the modifications will have on surrounding wetlands. According to a document from VDEQ, the refinery improvements would have originally impacted 13.42 acres of wetlands, however due to PAA’s modification of the plans—including a decrease in the width of a roadway along train tracks, relocation and reduction of a rail crow change area and using construction techniques that reduce wetlands impact—the final impacted area has been reduced to 3.45 acres.
CSX will provide rail transportation to and from the terminal, according to a news release from PAA. Originally the plan called for a staging track that’s part of CSX’s requirements to operate rail at the refinery, according to the VDEQ document. A loop track would have been built in the terminal and a siding was to be installed along another track that leads from the terminal to the mainline, but this plan was scrapped after a review determined it would have a significant impact on surrounding wetlands.
According to the VDEQ document, the terminal will “be one of the few unit train unloading terminals in the continental United States.” The modifications will include the addition of approximately 33,000 feet of track, two offloading stations that can handle 104 cars at a time and pumping, metering and monitoring equipment.
The rail that currently exists at the terminal was built in the late 1950s to support trains of that era. Those who built the terminal did not intend for anything more than a small volume of traffic, so the new rail system will “meet modern design standards and increase overall throughput,” according to the VDEQ document.
The VDEQ document also outlines changes to the facility, characterized as minor compared to the rail addition. Existing terminal piping, utilities and other equipment will be relocated. The marine component of the modifications consists of modifying and adding on to existing infrastructure, including new dock safety units, a vapor recovery and destruction system, piping repairs and piping replacements.
Houston-based PAA purchased the site from Western Refining in December 2011 for approximately $200 million. Included in that price is all of the refinery assets in Yorktown as well as an 82-mile segment of a 424-mile-long crude oil pipeline in New Mexico. PAA owns a network of about 18,000 miles of liquids pipelines, about 120 million barrels of liquids storage capacity and handles more than 3 million barrels of physical product on a daily basis, according to an August WYDaily story.