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Hydrocracker upgrade boosts Wood River

The Wood River Refinery is making the most out of its recent upgrade.  

The Roxana, Illinois refinery today can produce a higher percentage of in-demand fuels thanks to major enhancements to its hydrocracker. The upgrade to the process unit, which included the installation of two 3-million-pound reactors, was completed earlier this year and leaves Wood River well positioned to help Phillips 66 meet present and future needs for liquid fuels in the U.S.  

“The addition of the two new reactors allows Wood River to better optimize low-value feedstocks, further strengthening the refinery’s operations,” said Ray Rigdon, Vice President of Wood River Refinery, which is owned by WRB Refining LP, a 50-50 joint venture between Phillips 66 and Cenovus.  

Rigdon said the refinery is using available hydrogen capacity to increase clean-product yield.  

In a refinery, the hydrocracker converts vacuum gasoil, an intermediate feedstock, into higher-value products — mainly middle distillates such as diesel, jet fuel and kerosene — through pressure and heat and the use of catalysts and hydrogen.  

The new reactors optimize the hydrocracker’s clean-product yield by providing increased reactor volume and catalyst. The upgrade also allows the refinery to run lighter feedstocks through its fluid catalytic cracker, another key process unit, resulting in an improved yield of gasoline-range material.   

“It’s a win-win across the board,” Wood River Technical Services Manager Wesley Tindall said.  

The project, a major undertaking by the refinery and the Major Projects team at Phillips 66, tallied more than 800,000 work-hours without a recordable incident.   

The project was first envisioned in 2017. In 2020, the reactors embarked on a global trek before arriving at the refinery, traveling more than 8,400 miles over 51 days from Venice, Italy, to Wood River, which is north of St. Louis on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River. Two 900-ton strand jacks lifted the reactors into place in early 2021. The full project had a total execution phase duration of 40 months.   

“I am proud to see this major project complete and start up safely, on schedule and under budget,” said Mike Wirkowski, Vice President of Major Projects at Phillips 66. “It was a joint team effort from start to finish with a dedicated refinery and project team.”