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Major refinery supplying Wisconsin, Midwest, back to production "soon"


JOLIET, ILL (WSAU) -  Gas prices are up with two of the five major supplier’s refineries down for maintenance.  One of the refineries that is down for maintenance is the ExxonMobil facility south of Joliet Illinois.

Tricia Simpson is ExxonMobil’s Midwest Public and Government Affairs Manager.  She says their facility is shut down right now for a planned, scheduled maintenance operation. “You’ve got to stop everything. We take the crude out of the lines, and take a good hard look at all of the units in the refinery. We make sure everything is running properly, replace items that need to be replaced just like you would do from time to time on your vehicle, and then put the refinery back in service.”

She says there’s maintenance going on every day, much like any other industrial site with machines that run 24-hours a day, but now and then you have to shut down and go through the entire plant to keep it running safely and dependably. “We do something of this magnitude every three to five years, so this is what we would consider a major maintenance activity.”

Simpson says taking care of large machinery like this isn’t much different than how we take care of our cars. “The best analogy I can use is, everyone knows they need to maintain their car. You know at what point you have to do certain things, at 15-thousand miles, at 30-thousand miles, which things may need to be replaced. If you don’t do it, you run the risk of those items breaking. It’s no different for something like a refinery. We know what things are going to run for how long, and when they need to be looked at and when they need to be replaced.”

When a major maintenance shutdown needs to happen, they put a lot of time into planning every move. Simpson says, “Every hour, every job that needs to be done is all planned and scheduled for years in advance, so we know exactly how long it’s going to take, exactly the sequence of events, so that it can be done very efficiently and very safely so we can get back up and running as quickly as possible.” Like any other manufacturer, when the machines are off, they’re not making money, so for the refinery, it’s simply good business to take care of maintenance and get back to production soon.

Simpson says ExxonMobil planned ahead and arranged to have enough gasoline and diesel brought into the market while they were down, though several reports show the supply is tight forcing fuel prices up past $4.00 per gallon

Simpson legally cannot say exactly when the refinery will be back online, but says the work is nearing completion and they will be producing fuel again very soon.

Once that happens, market watchers including Gasbuddy.com and Triple A expect consumer prices to come down some.

The Joliet ExxonMobil facility normally processes 250-thousand barrels of crude oil every day delivered by pipeline from Canada. That puts about nine million gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel on the midwest market every day.