Suncor challenges EPA ruling to deny its SREs applications

By Erin Voegele | January 07, 2020

Oil refiner Suncor Energy U.S.A. Inc. has filed a petition for review with the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the U.S. EPA’s decision to rule its refinery complex located in Commerce City, Colorado, is ineligible to receive small refinery exemptions (SREs) under the Renewable Fuel Standard.

A petition for review was filed with the court on Dec. 23 and includes a partially redacted copy of a letter the EPA sent Suncor on Oct. 25, 2019, regarding the compliance year 2018 SRE applications it had filed for its two Commerce City refineries, referred to as the East Refinery and the West Refinery. Those SRE applications were filed by Suncor on Dec. 28, 2018.

RFS statute allows SREs for eligible refineries that do not exceed 75,000 barrels per day (bpd) of average aggregate daily crude oil throughput. In the letter, the EPA explains that it considers the Commerce City complex to be a single refinery that exceeds this limit. “Suncor’s East Refinery partially processes crude oil into gasoline blending components and intermediate distillate feedstocks that are ultimately converted into gasoline, CBOB, and ULSD in the West Refinery,” the EPA wrote in the letter. “Therefore, EPA considers the aggregate volume of crude distilled at both the East Refinery and West Refinery when determining the eligibility of the East Refinery and the West Refinery to petition as small refineries for an exemption from the RFS.”

Within the letter, the EPA said it recognizes that the two refineries were among the small refineries that received the original small refinery exemption in 2006. “However, Suncor has since done significant work to integrate the process operations of the two facilities so that they now function as a single refinery with an average aggregate daily crude oil throughput that exceeded 75,000 bpd in 2017 and 2018 and thus no longer meet the definition of a small refinery,” the EPA wrote.

“The extent of integration between Suncor’s East Refinery and West Refinery is evident in the technical and operational features of the refineries’ transportation fuel production,” the EPA continued. “Based on our own research of Suncor’s operations, we understand that while the two refineries originally operated as two, separate refineries when owned and operated by two, separate owners, Suncor purchased and modified the two refineries to no operate at a single refinery.” The letter also notes that Suncor routinely characterizes the two facilities as a single refinery in public presentations and business reports.