Valero honored  for innovations

Valero Three Rivers Refinery's administrative team, including (from left) Debbie Trinidad, human resources manager, Erik Simpson, vice president and general manager, and Yany Centeno, administrative assistant, have helped oversee a number of charitable endeavors involving Valero employees.

By Jeff Osborne

Progress staff

THREE RIVERS – While Valero is best known for its work in refining oil and producing petroleum, employees of the Valero Three Rivers Refinery took an opportunity to showcase a couple of other initiatives they are working on — recycling wastewater at the local plant to grow hay and reusing cooking oil and discarded animal parts in the production of diesel at a plant in Louisiana.

Valero’s Three Rivers location won an award from the South Texas Energy Economic Roundtable for its dedication to helping protect the environment.

“Wastewater is recycled and used to grow hay for local ranchers,” said Erik Simpson, vice president and general manager for Valero Three Rivers Refinery. “It’s a very ingenious way to use this water and benefits local agriculture.”

Conversely, agricultural products are also benefitting Valero.

“Valero is taking animal fat and used cooking oil to make diesel products,” Simpson said. The production is a joint venture between Valero and Diamond Green Diesel in Norco, Louisiana, which is in the greater New Orleans area.

The plant is able to produce 20,000 barrels of diesel per day, and is North America’s largest renewable diesel plant — with plans to expand, Simpson said.

“This benefits our society and is a very green thing to do,” he said.

Visitors to the Valero Three Rivers Community Advisory Council meeting also got a glimpse into ongoing work from Kyle Gentry, director of technical services for Valero Three Rivers Refinery, who gave an update on local construction.

He said the turnaround across Highway 281 from the refinery is expected to open in late January, and that the community will notice increased traffic on the road as more than 500 contractors per shift work at the plant.

The new parking lot on Highway 281 will be full, Gentry said, adding that buses will transport contractors from that location to the refinery.

During a portion of the construction process, additional flares will be visible from the refinery as impurities are burned off, and the scrubbing stack which releases steam will be temporarily offline.

Community residents will also see an array of cranes as construction continues.

The new administration building, which will be four stories tall and encompass 42,000 square feet, is expected to be completed during the summer.

“This will be a duplicate of the Ardmore (Oklahoma) building,” Gentry said.

Sheriff Larry Busby asked if access to the new administration building will be similar to the current building, in which visitors have to take a safety class before being allowed on site.

“No, this will offer easier access for visitors,” Gentry said.

Valero also took time to highlight community leaders. Busby, who has been sheriff since Jan. 1, 1981, and Live Oak County Judge Jim Huff, who has served since Jan. 1, 1987, were both recognized for their long service and dedication to the county.

Valero also underlined its commitment to improving the community through giving to worthy causes and to those in need. In 2019, employees pledged $270,791 to United Way, with an additional $31,890.85 raised in other contributions. With company grants added, the contributions were more than $400,000, Simpson said.

“We are grateful, because United Was benefits several organizations in Live Oak County,” Simpson said.

Jeff Osborne is the editor of The Progress. He can be reached at 361-786-3022 or