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End of August downstream news: USA and South America

Hydrocarbon Engineering,



Oil workers and the United Steelworkers have accused a rival labour group of trying to seize control of thousands of union jobs at California’s 13 refineries.

At issue is a bill that its author, Senator Loni Hancock, says she would boost safety in the wake of last year’s fire at a Chevron refinery in Richmond.

Hancock is seeking to replace up to 60% of the employees of the construction companies that do not contract work at refineries with building trades council craftsmen who have graduated from state approved apprenticeship programs.

However, the steelworkers and the oil companies counter that the measure has nothing to do with safety.

Catherine Houston, a state steelworkers official, has said that ‘it’s difficult not to classify this as a jurisdictional dispute’.

Such fights, she has suggested, are best sorted out within the labor family, rather than by lawmakers. However, no such negotiations are underway, and the California Labor Federation, an umbrella group for the state’s unions is staying out of the fray.


SarTec Corp., an Anoka based company, has developed a former shipping container into a unit containing monitors, pipes, tubes, a condenser, a catalytic chamber and other technology that can turn natural oils into biofuel to power diesel engines.

This smaller, portable version of the Mcgyam technology used in the Ever Cat Fuels biodiesel plant, was on display at the Minnesota state fair. ‘It will allow the farmer to produce all their diesel on the farm to run all their operations’, said Clayton McNeff, a SarTec vice president and co-inventor of the biodiesel technology.


Federal regulators and operators of the Big West Oil refinery in North Salt Lake have agreed to a settlement for installation of US$ 18 million in emissions controls and payment of US$ 175 000 penalty for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act.

The deal is the latest in a series of settlements with refineries nationwide that has allowed the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce pollutants that contribute to summer and winter smog, and acid rain.

‘EPA continues to secure significant settlements with refineries that benefit public health and improve air quality in our communities’, said Shaun McGrath, the top administrator in EPA’s Denver regional office. ‘Today’s agreement will help bring Big West Oil’s refinery up to date with industry standards to protect the environment’.

South America


President Nicolas Maduro has announced that a 2012 explosion that killed 42 people at an oil refinery in Venezuela was ‘sabotage’, accusing opponents of being responsible.

Maduro cited an international investigation as having found that the incident was a product of ‘sabotage by desperate actors who believed that a refinery fire would help them win elections against the (late President, Hugo) Chavez’.

Firefighters struggled for days to constrain the blaze that broke out on 25th August 2012 at the Amuay refinery. The incident was initially blamed on a gas leak said to have caused the fire and the explosion of nine fuel tanks.

Edited from various sources by Emma McAleavey.

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