HOUSTON, Feb 11 (Reuters) - PBF Energy said on Thursday it expects start up activities on a crippled gasoline-producing unit at Exxon Mobil’s Torrance refinery near Los Angeles, California, to begin in mid-March.
The restart will pave the way for the independent refiner to complete its acquisition of the 149,500 barrel per day facility by the second quarter of this year.
A major gasoline-producing unit, otherwise known as a fluid catalytic cracking unit (FCCU), went down at the facility in February 2015 following an explosion and has since remained under repair. The prolonged outage has at times exacerbated price volatility in West Coast gasoline markets, which require a boutique blend of gasoline that is not widely produced outside California.
Exxon is expected to begin start up activities on the unit on March 15, PBF executives said on Thursday during an earnings call. The restart will take 35 days, including a 15-day period in which Exxon is required to prove the unit is fully operational.
“We have to make sure we can run it safely, reliably, and in an environmentally responsible manner. That has been the challenge for the site,” Tom Nimbley, chief executive officer for PBF, said on the call.
PBF said in September that it would acquire the refinery for $537.5 million, marking the second deal between the two companies within several months. In June, PBF acquired Exxon’s and Petroleos de Venezuela SA’s joint venture Chalmette, Louisiana, refinery for $322 million.
In January, the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Board (CBS) said a series of problems, including leaks of steam and hydrocarbons, led to the February blast. The explosion also damaged a electrostatic precipitator (ESP) at the refinery. (Reporting by Liz Hampton)