Nipomo Mesa refinery aims to increase production

ConocoPhillips plans to increase the output of its Nipomo Mesa refinery by more than 12 percent.

The oil company has applied to county planners and air pollution control officials for permission to increase the capacity of its refinery from its current 44,500 barrels a day to 50,000.

This will increase the refinery’s annual production from 16.2 million barrels to 18.2 million. A barrel contains 42 gallons of oil.

An environmental impact report is being prepared, and the company hopes to have its permits in six to nine months. The refinery has the capacity to handle the increased production without modifications, said Jim Anderson, the refinery’s superintendent of health, safety and environment.

“This won’t involve any additional equipment or new construction,” he said. “It’s only an increase in our permit allowance.”

The company is also applying for permission to take partially refined oil from other refineries. Its current permit allows it to take only crude oil.

The main environmental effect of the upgrade will be increased air pollution emissions, such as nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide, because the oil is heated in order to refine it. Conoco-Phillips will be required to reduce other emissions in the county in order to offset the emissions from the increased production.

“Our overall emissions will not increase,” Anderson said.

The company will probably be able to offset the emissions by improving the efficiency of boilers and other equipment at the refinery. If that is not enough, buying emissions credits and reducing emissions elsewhere in the county are other options, said Larry Allen, county air pollution control officer.

The ConocoPhillips refinery, known as the Santa Maria facility, takes crude oil from local sources and does initial refining. The semirefined product is then piped to another refinery in the San Francisco Bay Area community of Rodeo, where it is made into gasoline, jet fuel and diesel oil.

Reach David Sneed at 781-7930.