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HollyFrontier refinery to produce renewable diesel

Published by , Assistant Editor
Hydrocarbon Engineering,

HollyFrontier Corporation has announced that its Board of Directors has approved a plan to convert the Cheyenne Refinery to renewable diesel production and to construct a pre-treatment unit (PTU) located at the Artesia Refinery.

Including the previously announced renewable diesel unit at the Artesia Refinery, HollyFrontier is expected to have a combined capacity to produce over 200 million gal. per year of renewable diesel and pre-treat over 80% of its feedstock. HollyFrontier expects to invest between US$650 – 750 million in its renewables business, with an expected aggregate internal rate of return of 20 – 30%.

Conversion of the Cheyenne Refinery

With expected capital spending of US$125 – 175 million, HollyFrontier intends to repurpose Cheyenne’s current footprint and a portion of its existing assets to produce approximately 90 million gal. per year of renewable diesel. HollyFrontier expects the project will be completed in 1Q2022 and generate an internal rate of return of 20 –30%.

Construction of a PTU at the Artesia Refinery

HollyFrontier also plans to construct a PTU that will process over 80% of the feedstock for both of HollyFrontier’s renewable diesel plants. The PTU is expected to provide feedstock flexibility, mitigating single feedstock risk and generating value through the use of lower carbon intensity feed.

HollyFrontier estimates the capital cost of the PTU to be $175 – 225 million and the in-service date to be in the first half of 2022. The PTU has an expected internal rate of return of 10 – 15% but is intended to protect the returns of HollyFrontier’s renewables business against potential volatility in the feedstock markets.

Petroleum refining in Cheyenne

The conversion to renewable diesel production will result in HollyFrontier ceasing petroleum refining and reducing the workforce at the Cheyenne Refinery. This decision was primarily based on the expectation that future free cash flow generation in Cheyenne would be challenged due to lower gross margins resulting from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and compressed crude differentials resulting from dislocations in the crude oil market, coupled with forecasted uncompetitive operating and maintenance costs and the anticipated loss of the Environmental Protection Agency’s small refinery exemption.

Based on the initial review of its long-lived assets, over 2Q2020 and 3Q2020, HollyFrontier expects to record non-cash charges of US$225 – 275 million for impairment and depreciation charges and US$3 – 12 million for asset retirement obligations. Additionally, over the next twelve months, HollyFrontier anticipates pre-tax costs of US$25 – 45 million for decommissioning assets and US$5 – 7 million for severance obligations and proceeds of US$50 – 70 million from the liquidation of working capital.

Capital expenditures

In 2020, HollyFrontier expects to maintain its total capital spending guidance of US$525 – 625 million. For refining, the company expects to spend between US$202 – 221 million. This lower range reflects further optimisation of refinery capital budgets and lower spending at the Cheyenne Refinery. For renewables, HollyFrontier expects capital expenditures in 2020 of US$150 – 180 million, which includes capital costs for the Artesia renewable diesel unit, the Cheyenne conversion and the PTU. There is no change to the US$30 – 45 million capital spend for lubricants and specialty products or the US$85 – 110 million for turnarounds and catalysts. Capital expenditures for Holly Energy Partners also remains unchanged at US$58 – 69 million.

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