WOODS CROSS — The HollyFrontier Refinery here faces challenges the company doesn’t face at its four other refineries.
“What we’re having to do is spend more money to take the smokestack emissions and further clean them of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide,” said Mike Jennings, president, CEO and chairman of the board of HollyFrontier.
The company’s other refineries are in Wyoming, Oklahoma, Kansas and New Mexico. It is headquartered in Dallas, Texas.
Jennings was in Utah last week to speak at the annual meeting of the Utah Petroleum Association. He also spoke with the Clipper.
“Our emissions have gone down 90 percent since the early 90s,” he said.
A proposed expansion of the Wood Cross Refinery, if approved, would double its refining capacity while reducing emissions another 10 percent, he said.
The latest improvement, a Wet Gas Scrubber installed last fall, reduces particulate matter by 65 percent, sulphur dioxide by more than 60 percent and nitrogen oxide by 70 percent, according to information provided by the company.
Jennings is very aware of the air quality concerns that pit some community members against HollyFrontier and the other oil refineries along the Wasatch Front.
“What we need to do is take very seriously the integrity of this facility,” he said of the Woods Cross plant. That means working not only to cut emissions, but being more aware of safety and the risk of running such a facility so close to homes and other businesses, he said.
Over the years, Jennings believes the number of problems at the plant has gone down. He said employees are working to lower that number further.
The energy company is also examining ways to balance consumer needs and resources, he said.
“Now the talk is about biomass, as if it’s our saving grace,” Jennings said. “We used it for millions of years and stopped because it depleted the forests.”
Now, the industry must address alternatives for energy use, he said. If car manufacturers switch to electric cars, that may mean electricity coming from fossil fuel-burning power plants. That presents its own issues of pollution and increased energy use, he said.
A growing population means that all energy sources will have to integrate for society to continue, he said.
The Woods Cross Refinery has about 240 employees. If the refinery is granted the permit to expand, it will mean 60 new jobs on site and hundreds more on a contract basis, Jennings said. “They are jobs that provide a salary double the state average and provide careers to advance within the system,” Jennings said.