New base oil facility taking shape

By The Associated Press

PASCAGOULA, Miss. (AP) — Laquia Haith, a 26-year-old mother of four, had been pondering a move back to her hometown of Dallas when she got a call from a recruiter at the WIN job center.

The person at WIN was calling to let her know about contractor jobs available at the Chevron refinery as part of its $1.4 billion expansion.

Haith, who had worked as a nursing assistant and retail cashier throughout her eight years in the area, jumped at the chance, which involved completing training with Chevron contractor KBR. The job, she said, pays considerably more than what she had been earning.

“It will take us a long way,” Haith said. “We’re not struggling … we’re not trying to make ends meet anymore.”

Haith was one of the 20 or so workers who began their jobs Monday at 5:30 p.m. building Chevron’s new base oil facility.

The plant – which will produce the main ingredient in premium motor oils – is expected to generate about 1,000 jobs over two years of construction, and 20 permanent, salaried positions that pay annual salaries of $55,000 to $65,000.

Chevron in April awarded Houston-based KBR a $65 million contract to build the base oil plant at the Pascagoula refinery.

The work consists of building several new units, and retrofitting existing facilities to produce base oil.

Monday evening found Haith and co-worker Joel Jackson, also 26, getting a safety briefing from senior project manager Gerard Courville, a process that Courville said is repeated each time the crew starts a new task, whether it’s hammering, welding or drilling.

Chevron announced the major new project in late January. It will be capable of producing 25,000 barrels of base oil, the main ingredient in premium motor oils, each day.

At peak construction, most likely in July 2012, KBR will have about 450 workers on the approximately 40-acre site.

Sean Comey, Chevron media adviser, said the project promises to have a ripple effect on the local economy. “The person who now has a job will be able to fix the bald tires on their vehicle, and the person at the tire shop will get extra business, and he will go spend his money somewhere else.

“It just goes on from there.”

Comey said that Chevron’s decision to produce base oil is part of a global trend toward greater fuel efficiency and pollution reduction.

Slated for completion by the end of 2013, the base oil facility represents the largest investment in the history of the refinery since it began operating in 1963.

The facility will roughly double Chevron’s premium base oil production.

The company manufactures premium base oil at its refinery in Richmond, Calif., and a joint venture facility in Yeosu, Korea. Premium base oil produced in Pascagoula is intended to serve markets in North America, Latin America and Europe.

In addition to motor oil, base oil is also used to make lubricants for high-tech machinery and equipment used in the commercial and industrial sectors of the economy.

Chevron’s largest wholly-owned refinery, the Pascagoula facility has a work force of 1,610 and processes up to 330,000 barrels per day of crude oil to produce gasoline, jet fuel, diesel and other products.