Ergon refinery discussed by Rotarians

STEUBENVILLE -Ergon-West Virginia Inc., a refinery of crude oil in Newell, was discussed during Friday’s luncheon meeting of the Steubenville Rotary Club at the YWCA on North Fourth Street.

Benjamin Jezovnik, engineering manager for the plant, told Rotary members about plant operations, including the refining of crude oil into different petroleum-based products. Jezovnik said Ergon has two plants in the U.S., including in Newell and Jackson, Miss. He said the local plant employees 187 people, and the company has a worldwide presence.

“(Ergon) has terminals all over the U.S.,” he said, adding the plant’s refined petroleum is used in a variety of different oil-based products, from lubrication to ink pens.

“Cooper Tire uses our oils,” he said, adding the refinery is a “sophisticated crude oil processor,” that also boasts a motor oil sideline.

The plant previously was owned by Quaker State before being sold to Ergon in 1997, said Jezovnik.

“We are one of the nation’s newest refineries,” he said, adding the plant, originally opened in 1972, has expanded its operations over the years.

The plant uses several refining techniques to extract a variety of petroleum-based oils and products used in gasoline, paraffinic waxes – the plant’s biggest seller – propane, diesel and naptha. Other “low-grade” petroleum byproducts are used for asphalt and other purposes, said Jezovnik.

“We have pipelines going under the river,” he said, adding the pipelines carry a variety of refined product that’s then shipped by truck and rail.

Separating crude oil into different hydrocarbon-based fuels and oils is a relatively simple process involving the heating of crude oil, which then separates the different hydrocarbon-based products through filtering, said Jezovnik.

“We have steam (for the heating of crude oil) produced by three boilers in the refinery,” he said. “We use natural gas for most of the production processes.”

The crude oil needed is extracted from the Appalachian areas of Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

“The Utica shale is just coming into play,” said Jezovnik.

The company also is involved in biodiesel refining, and mixes it with other diesel fuels. The plant also expanded its operations greatly in 2012 and is involved in shale oil extraction and refinement, he added.

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