A $555 million coker project at NCRA will bring an estimated 400 jobs to the area before completion of the project in 2015, officials announced this weekend.


A $555 million coker project at NCRA will bring an estimated 400 jobs to the area before completion of the project in 2015, officials announced this weekend.
“The timing is right for NCRA to build a new coker,” Jim Loving, NCRA president, stated in a news release. “In addition to upgrading our technology, the new coker will allow the refinery to run a greater variety of crude oils. This is the largest project in NCRA’s history with a targeted completion in August 2015.”
The refinery is not borrowing  for the project, but will use internally generated funds, said Hope VonBorkenhagen, NCRA vice president of human resources.
The new Delayed Coking Unit is not expected to increase production but replace a coker that has been in service at the McPherson plant since 1952. The refinery will remain open during the construction process.
The purpose of a Coker is to squeeze more liquid products (gasoline and diesel) out of the heaviest portion of the crude oil barrel.
It will leave a solid black substance called petroleum coke. This material will be hauled away by rail.
The new coker will change the  look of the refinery skyline with additional towers and piping, but more importantly it will bring jobs to the McPherson community.
Rick Leicht, NCRA vice president-refining, said in a news release the project is in the engineering and procurement stage focused on designing the specific equipment needed. This work is being done off site.
Equipment of the right size and metallurgy is not available off the shelf. Most of the Coker engineering is being done in Houston, by Mustang Engineers & Constructors. Wink Engineering is doing the site/connection design in Baton Rouge, La.
These specialty engineering contractors work with refineries on a routine basis. Close to 350,000 engineering man hours will be required for the project.
Contractors will be hired to complete the on site installation of the coker. Starting in January 2013, the construction phase is scheduled to begin with welders, pipe fitters, laborers, carpenters and others. It is expected that a construction workforce of 200 will  begin in January of 2013, and could grow to 400 before tapering off near the completion in  2015. The workforce will be made up of local and outside sources.
“Looking from the Chamber perspective, the refinery has been a major employer in our community for some time,” said Greg McCullough, McPherson Chamber of Commerce president. “Any upgrade they make to their technology in preparation for the future is a good thing for the McPherson community. The construction jobs referred to will bring money into the community. Those workers will spend money in the community. That is a positive thing for local businesses.”
NCRA’s in-house engineering is also vital throughout the project.
“Our people are very much  involved,” Leicht said, “in the decision making, the approval, and making sure that it all fits into the existing refinery.”
Part of the engineering effort is to create a model of the unit with 3D modeling software that allows the user to rotate and  walk through while examining details prior to construction.
Multiple  3D Model Reviews will be conducted with design engineers and NCRA’s staff working together to make sure that all of NCRA’s requirements and specifications are met.
NCRA is an inter-regional cooperative engaged in crude oil acquisition, transportation, refining and product distribution. NCRA was organized in 1943 by regional farm supply cooperatives.
Products from the company’s 85,000 barrel-per-day refinery are purchased by the farm supply cooperatives and distributed throughout the North Central United States.