A Paradigm Shift in Refining


via newsroom.kiewit.com

The San Francisco Refinery, owned and operated by Phillips 66, has long been a fixture in the region. It sits in Rodeo, California, a small designation within Contra Costa County next to competing facilities. The Rodeo Renewed project, however, is more than a routine upgrade — it’s a comprehensive conversion aimed at aligning with modern environmental standards and embracing the future of energy.

According to Phillips 66, the Rodeo Renewed project is set to enhance the refinery’s capabilities, incorporating cutting-edge technologies to produce cleaner fuels. The company is simultaneously converting existing diesel infrastructure and building new facilities at Rodeo Renewed. The goal is clear: reducing the carbon footprint and contributing to a more sustainable energy landscape. 

Lessons Learned

Undoubtedly, the Rodeo Renewed project faces its share of challenges. Complexities in integrating new technologies, regulatory hurdles, and the sheer scale of the conversion are just a few considerations.
Esai Dominguez, Cherne’s project manager for Rodeo Renewed, described the greatest limitation for the team: “Each day our footprint is getting smaller and smaller.” Construction at the refinery is a balancing act between available space and work needing to be performed. For example, after the foundations were in place for the site, each steel column added to the construction reduced the space that craft workers could operate within. The first steel column was placed in October 2022, with more ironworkers coming on to the project site each day to work on the structures.

“The structures for the new facility are unique in that they are larger, heavier and more complex to build than previous work we’ve done in the refining industry,” said Dominguez. Cherne is experienced with this type of work, but building the largest renewable diesel pre-treatment unit in the Western Hemisphere had unforeseen challenges.In January 2023, Cherne began placing equipment for use in the pre-treatment unit and placed over 600 pieces throughout the year.

These included between 30 and 40 pieces that significantly reduced the building footprint available to the team. The new biodiesel equipment is 40 to 46 times the typical scale of the same pieces in a traditional diesel configuration. After the equipment was installed, there were still multiple construction phases left, including pipefitting, electrical and insulation.