Valero Case Study


Cracking open new opportunities

Throughout its refining and marketing system, Valero supplies fuel and other products that improve people’s lives.  Valero operates 15 refineries and 10 ethanol plants stretching from the U.S. West and Gulf coasts to Canada and the United Kingdom, and with its subsidiaries, Valero is the world’s largest independent petroleum refiner and marketer. When Valero decided to build two new hydrocrackers, it turned to long-time partner Praxair to help complete an ambitious and innovative new project.

A tale of two pipelines

Valero’s two new hydrocrackers breakdown hydrocarbon molecules in order to produce more refined gasoline and diesel fuel. Located at refineries in Port Arthur, TX and St. Charles Parish, LA, Valero’s new hydrocrackers turn refined crude oil into high quality products, at up to 128% of the product input. Operating these units requires a large and consistent supply of hydrogen: up to 120 million scfd of hydrogen and approximately 450,000 pounds per hour of steam. The challenge was how to supply it. Valero could have built its own facilities, or it could work with an industrial gas company like Praxair.

By choosing to partner with Praxair, Valero gained a number of benefits for its new units. Key to the success of these new hydrocrackers is a reliable source of hydrogen. With decades of experience and innovation, Praxair is able to offer a much more reliable supply of hydrogen with an extensive hydrogen pipeline system as well as a 2 billion scf hydrogen storage cavern.  In Louisiana, we are installing an additional 50 mile pipeline, connecting the new hydrogen plant in St. Charles to our existing complex in Geismar, Louisiana.

As part of the work to ensure the supply of hydrogen to Valero’s new 60,000 barrels-per-day hydrocrackers, we built, operate and maintain a Steam Methane Reformer at each of Valero's sites. These SMRs are the largest Praxair has built to date, each with a capacity of 135 million standard cubic feet of hydrogen per day.  And these SMRs will do more than just provide the necessary hydrogen – each will generate twice the amount of steam than previous designs from a fully integrated auxiliary boiler.

New facilities, new opportunities

Each of these locations is an entirely new facility. To complete this ambitious project, we brought in specialized partners, like S&B, an engineering and construction company, and Uhde, a technology partner.

In addition to helping Valero efficiently produce clean-burning diesel fuel, our new facilities will help us supply hydrogen to customers in the gulf coast and lower Mississippi River corridor as well as providing employment opportunities and subcontractor work for years to come.