ExxonMobil last week announced an investment of more than $1 billion to expand our refinery in Antwerp, Belgium. We’re planning to add new equipment to convert heavy, higher-sulfur residual oil – currently blended into fuel oil or asphalt – into higher-grade products such as diesel and marine fuel to serve drivers and other customers in Europe.
This announcement is significant for several reasons.
For one thing, it represents a strategic focus for ExxonMobil in Europe despite a tough industry environment that has seen numerous refinery closures on the continent over the past decade.
We take a long-term view of our properties around the world. In Antwerp we see an opportunity to improve the competitiveness of a key asset to the benefit of consumers by addressing a shortfall in diesel to meet increased demand in Europe. Moreover, this investment will allow us to optimize many of our other European assets.
The planned expansion comes on the heels of construction at the Antwerp complex of a diesel hydrotreater in 2010 and a 130-megawatt cogeneration facility in 2008. The cogen unit has reduced carbon dioxide emissions to levels equivalent to taking 90,000 cars off Belgium’s roads.
Overall we will have invested more than $2 billion over the course of a decade to improve the site’s efficiency and environmental performance. The new investment will reduce sulfur dioxide emissions at the site by 75 percent.
It will also create jobs. On average, about 700 additional workers will be on-site daily during a three-year construction period, peaking at about 1,200 workers in 2016.
And, of course, this upgrade will strengthen the competitive position of the Antwerp site, which already employs about 600 people and supports numerous contractors and service providers.
We are also evaluating additional investments to further strengthen our strategic refineries in Europe, but governments and European Union leaders will need to do their parts to ensure the region can compete more effectively in a global marketplace.
ExxonMobil executive Steve Hart told the Financial Times last week that these facilities could conceivably be in use 50 years from now. If European policymakers take steps to build and maintain a sound and stable business climate, we are confident that our long-range vision can make that possibility a reality.