Engineering News

New Chevron Pascagoula Manager Has Big Plans
June 21, 2010

The new general manager of Chevron's Pascagoula Refinery said Friday that he's working to get the plant back into shape as a top competitor in a market where the demand for gasoline has dropped.

Tom Kovar, a globe-trotting Chevron administrator, took over the refinery -- Chevron's largest in North America -- while it's undergoing a $500 million upgrade and is poised to begin an expansion. He's also taking over with the nation's worst environmental disaster unfolding in the refinery's backyard.

Kovar said Chevron as a company has been involved in the BP oil gusher response, lending its technical expertise and equipment.

It has offered $10 million for response efforts across the Gulf Coast and will be involved in shaping new regulations for the oil industry that are expected to come.

Kovar spent nine years at the Pascagoula Refinery, beginning in 1980 and went on to become general manager of the company's Hawaii Refinery, interim general manager at the Salt Lake City Refinery and general manager of the Pembroke Refinery in Wales.

He has also held key roles at Chevron's international holdings in Argentina and Kazakhstan.

The Pascagoula plant is seeking permits by the end of 2013 for an expansion that would enable it to produce base oil for lubricants. It is also diversifying so it will be able to process a wider variety of crude oils.

Kovar said when it makes that diversification, becomes more flexible, efficient and cost competitive, "it will be hard to beat us." The Pascagoula refinery runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, employs about 1,500 and has the capability to refine 330,000 barrels of crude oil a day, including heavy crude. It produces gasoline, jet fuels and diesel.

With expansions and upgrades, the plant also has between 2,000 and 3,000 contract employees on the grounds at any given time.

Kovar called the business climate "difficult." The nation's demand for gasoline has decreased and isn't expected to return, he said. And U.S. fuel now contains 10 percent ethanol.

To put that in perspective, he pointed out that the country's appetite for fuel requires refining nine million barrels a day. Ten percent of that is 900,000 barrels, he said.

"That's the output of seven or eight refineries," he said. "It has squeezed the market."

He assured the Sun Herald that the refinery is learning from others' mistakes and putting into practice all safety measures.

On the other hand, Kovar said BP's hiring thousands up and down the Coast for spill response has caused challenges in the area of employment.

Source: The Sun Herald, Biloxi, Miss.

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