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County board approves Phillips 66’s land-use permit for full Rodeo refinery conversion

Photo: Phillips 66

Local leaders from Phillips 66 applauded a 5-0 vote by Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors to approve the land-use permit necessary to reconfigure the San Francisco Refinery in Rodeo to produce renewable diesel, renewable gasoline and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Under a permitting-review process overseen by county leaders and under authority of the California Environmental Quality Act, the plant can now proceed with its conversion away from crude oil-based fuel production toward used cooking oils, fats, greases and vegetable oils, pending a final investment decision by Phillips 66 and other regulatory approvals.

“Elected leaders and staff in Contra Costa County have overseen a robust two-year, multifaceted public process that resulted in not only a detailed administrative review of our proposed project but also earned thousands of public comments in support,” said Rich Harbison, vice president of the Phillips 66 San Francisco refinery. “This is great news for the hundreds of refinery employees who work here, and it’s especially promising for California, which will realize significant lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions reductions.”

The proposed facility conversion, known as the Rodeo Renewed project, stands to have an initial production capacity of 800 million gallons per year (50,000 barrels per day) of renewable diesel, renewable gasoline, and SAF. The fully permitted throughput is 67,000 barrels per day. Production of these fuels is projected to slash lifecycle carbon emissions by an estimated 65 percent—the equivalent of taking 1.4 million cars off California roads each year. Rodeo Renewed also stands to cut criteria pollutant emissions at the site by 50 percent and water use by 160 million gallons per year.

“We know it won’t happen overnight,” said Richard Corey, executive officer at the California Air Resources Board, at a March 29 Contra Costa County Planning Commission meeting. “With the regulations being adopted in California, the most progressive regulations in the world, if you look at sectors like aviation, marine and long-haul trucking, they're going to be in liquid fuels for a long time. That is a fact. It’s an honest assessment.”

Renewable diesel is a “drop-in” replacement fuel that is chemically equivalent to crude oil-derived diesel but with lower carbon intensity. Renewable gasoline and SAF are also considered “drop-in” replacements when blended to make low-carbon, low-sulfur, high-performing fuels. The project scope outlined in the Final Environmental Impact Report included the construction of a pretreatment unit and the repurposing of existing hydrocracking units to enable production of renewable fuels.

The conversion will create more than 500 construction jobs and preserve more than 650 family-wage jobs, including full-time employees and contractors. It will also help California meet both its demand for renewable and conventional transportation fuels while assisting the state achieve its environmental goals, including carbon neutrality by 2045.

“This is a game-changing moment, and what happened today is precisely what must occur to make life better for working families seeking a true and just transition,” said Local 326 President Tyson Bagley of the United Steelworkers. “Since 1934, United Steelworkers Local 326 has been an integral member of both the refinery and the Rodeo/Crockett community. Our members are proud to be among the first to work on one of the most significant renewable fuels projects in Contra Costa County, California, and the nation.”

An all-of-the-above energy policy solution set is what’s required to usher in a sustainable future that also meets the growing need for affordable energy. Phillips 66’s operations in California have demonstrated the leadership that is necessary to bring innovative solutions to a sustainable energy future. Once reconfigured, the Rodeo Refinery will no longer transport or process crude oil. The project is expected to be complete in early 2024.


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