Benzene Reduction

Client: Valero Energy Corp.
Location: McKee, Texas; St. Charles, Louisiana; Memphis, Tennessee


Valero worked closely with Burns & McDonnell to meet the Environmental Protection Agency Mobile Source Air Toxics (MSAT2) regulations for its McKee refinery. In order to achieve this, a new reformate splitter unit was designed and constructed and integrated into the refinery. This project was executed for three geographically dispersed refineries within the Valero system. Major project components included the reformate splitter and modularized associated equipment, interconnection of piping to the refinery, storage tank design and construction and rail loading facilities.

We supported Valero’s management team from FEP-2 through startup support, providing significant assistance with scheduling, procurement and value-added engineering during the design phase.

During FEP-3, we analyzed alternative construction approaches that considered many factors including constructability, cost, schedule, and workforce availability for the project. The design team prepared cost estimates for the alternatives.

The team also worked closely with Valero to complete the reformate splitter tower design and select suppliers based on schedule, cost and product quality. The analysis considered domestic and international suppliers for this equipment and provided recommendations to acquire the equipment from international suppliers. Following completion of FEP-3, the team immediately began work on detailed design. Throughout the project, we developed design packages that supported a dual construction strategy, which included differing approaches for the OSBL and inside battery limits (ISBL) areas. The ISBL and OSBL portions of the project were executed with multiple contractors to bring additional construction forces into the refinery.

Early in the detailed design phase, our team identified several opportunities to reduce cost and speed up the schedule, including cloning the reformate splitter unit design for all three sites. The project used reformate splitter towers that were unique to each refinery, coupled with a standardized balance of plant equipment, steel, piping, instrumentation and controls. Implementing these value-added measures was particularly advantageous because of the short supply of qualified contractors and skilled craft labor.

In addition to design services, we solicited and conditioned bids and procured major equipment and instrumentation. Careful scheduling and expediting of equipment deliveries permitted the modules to be lifted from the transport trucks and set in permanent position, saving significant field labor and construction equipment expense that would have been incurred with additional unloading, handling and transport from a staging/laydown yard.

Throughout the design, procurement and early construction, we provided assistance with development and maintenance of the project schedule. The scheduling assistance also included performing studies for benefits and impacts of alternate procurement, contracting and construction sequencing strategies.

With the combination of multiple contracts for selected early work completion, pre-erection fit-out and an exceptionally smooth startup, the project finished on schedule. Significant dollars were saved in project overhead and indirect costs. The new reformate splitter exceeded design rates in just two days from the introduction of feed stock.


  • Front end project planning (FEP-3)
  • Estimating
  • Project scheduling
  • Detailed engineering
  • 3-D modeling
  • Procurement
  • Construction
  • Startup support


  • Executed project with zero recordable injuries
  • Completed FEP-3, detailed design, procurement and construction on time and $4.2 million under budget
  • Exceeded new reformate splitter design rates in just two days after the introduction of feed stock
  • Reduced field rework to below 1 percent by performing thorough and accurate design and prefabrications
  • Suggested and designed process unit modularization as an alternate to the typical stick-built method, saving significant field labor cost
  • Developed 3-D modeling during FEP-3 as a platform for moving efficiently into detailed engineering, developing construction plans and enhancing overall project design
  • Used laser scanning to document existing locations of outside battery limit (OSBL) utility racks and equipment, providing exceptionally accurate pipe routing and tie-in design
  • Conducted design reviews with 3-D models, maximizing Valero’s input during reviews to avoid changes during construction
  • Applied flexible contracting approaches for efficient construction execution