By Erwin Seba
HOUSTON (Reuters) - ExxonMobil Corp is considering expanding light crude processing capacity at its Beaumont, Texas, refinery with the addition of a third crude distillation unit, a company spokeswoman said on Thursday.
If approved, construction could begin on Unit C in 2019 and be completed in 2022, said Exxon spokeswoman Charlotte Huffaker. She declined to disclose the contemplated capacity or possible cost of the Unit C expansion.
"These investments reflect the increased availability of abundant, affordable supplies of U.S. light crude," Huffaker said.
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The expansion would be part of the $20-billion 'Growing the Gulf' project announced in March by Exxon Chairman and Chief Executive Darren Woods.
While Exxon has mentioned potential expansion of light oil refining capacity at the Beaumont plant as part of that project, this is the first time the company has talked about Unit C and given a timeline for possible construction.
Since at least 2014, Exxon has been considering the addition of a large distillation unit that would boost Beaumont's crude oil refining capacity from 362,300 barrels per day (bpd) to between 700,000 and 850,000 bpd, sources told Reuters in 2014 and 2015.
The contemplated crude capacity expansion was put on hold in early 2016 due to cuts in capital spending, sources said at the time.
On Thursday night, sources familiar with Exxon's plans said the company was now looking at adding a large crude distillation unit at the refinery.
The two crude units currently at the Beaumont refinery are Units A and B.
The last major expansion of a U.S. refinery was the 5-year, $10-billion addition of a crude distillation unit and other units at Motiva Enterprises Port Arthur, Texas, refinery which more than doubled its size to 603,000 bpd. The expansion was completed in 2012.
The Motiva expansion was originally budgeted at $5 billion, but went through a year-long review in 2009.
Last year, Exxon added 20,000 bpd in light crude refining capacity to Unit A at the Beaumont refinery, Huffaker said.
(Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Joseph Radford)