Officials from the BP Cherry Point Refinery recently held an open house at nearby Birch Bay Bible Community Church to explain $400 million in improvements set to be made to the refinery in the next year.
The construction project, slated to start in June, will eventually allow the refinery to produce hydrogen for use in making gasoline and diesel fuel. Hydrogen, added to the fuel production process, will produce low-sulfur diesel fuel and gasoline without benzene as a byproduct, BP Cherry Point spokesman Bill Kidd said.
The project, expected to take 18 months, will produce about $25 million in tax revenue and create approximately 350 construction jobs, Kidd explained. Once the new facility is up and running, in December 2012, the refinery will require eight more full-time workers.
The addition of hydrogen to the diesel-making process will allow refinery technicians to strip sulfur from the fuel and store it for later sale, Kidd explained. The elemental sulfur will be sold for use in products such as fertilizer.
“We have to sell it,” Kidd said. “Better to sell it than to put it in a hole in the ground.”
Sulfur dioxide, as opposed to elemental sulfur, is responsible for acid rain and is generally harmful to the environment, Kidd said. One of the most important parts of the new hydrogen plant is its ability to produce elemental sulfur.
Work will start in June, and residents living near the refinery can expect increased dump truck traffic around the refinery starting then until about July. Once the actual construction starts in July, residents can expect hammering noises from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m, Monday through Friday. The hammering will give way to increased truck traffic as the new equipment is delivered starting in October.