5Q: Jeff Coleman, general manager of Delaware City Refinery
Jeff Coleman began his career with PBF Energy – which owns the Delaware City Refinery – in 2011, after assisting with the sale of the Toledo Refinery from Sunoco to PBF. He was the mechanical reliability and capital manager, operations manager, and refinery manager in Toledo for PBF Energy before moving to the Delaware City Refinery as refinery manager in August 2017.
You came on as GM last summer. What’s been the biggest learning curve?
The Delaware City Refinery is a very sophisticated and complex refinery that features quite a few technologies and processes that we didn’t have at the facilities where I previously worked, so I’m asking questions every day. The team at the refinery is fantastic, one of the strongest I’ve been around, and so
I have a lot of people to learn from.
The U.S. energy market is booming. As an individual refinery, how has the general shift toward domestic energy impacted operations?
The strong U.S. energy market is both great for our nation and for our facility. One remarkable turnaround has been the low cost of natural gas, a major feedstock for our refinery, with the price having dropped by 60 percent to 70 percent over the past decade. This gives the U.S. refining industry a large advantage versus some of our competitors overseas, particularly in Europe, which imports a lot of gasoline into the U.S. East Coast.
Gov. Carney has asked the Trump Administration to waive federal renewable fuel mandates, and hundreds of workers rallied at the refinery in the fall, worried about their future and jobs. Where do things stand now?
The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) continues to be a controversial issue for our industry, a major headwind for our company and refinery, as well as the other merchant refiners in the Delaware Valley. As you can see from the headlines coming out of Washington, D.C., there is a running debate surrounding the RFS, which has become a major issue for the Trump administration since Philadelphia Energy Solutions declared bankruptcy. Here in Delaware, we have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on this broken regulation over the last several years; money that’s gone to our competitors and speculators, with no benefit to the environment or the American farmer. Gov. Carney has been a strong supporter of the Delaware City Refinery since he served in Congress. He spoke at our RINs Rally last November, held jointly with our partners in the United Steelworkers Union, Trade Unions, and Fueling American Jobs Coalition. More than 500 employees, contractors and other supporters gathered that day to call on President Trump to reverse course and fix RFS, further encouraged by Gov. Carney’s support.
In fact, Gov. Carney subsequently wrote to Scott Pruitt, administrator of the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), requesting an RFS waiver, which is under consideration by EPA. We are also thankful the Delaware congressional delegation asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the unregulated RIN market, where biofuel credits associated with the RFS are traded, which has been marked by fraud
and volatile price swings.
How do you anticipate the energy market changing in the years ahead?
No matter the industry, the rate of change in technology in our world today is truly amazing, especially in the United States, and to assume that anything will simply remain the same is foolish. I would expect continuing improvement in fuel economy for our vehicle fleet, along with improvements in electric vehicles in the years ahead. But even with those possible improvements, there will continue to be a need for oil-based energy, and we believe the Delaware City Refinery can continue to help supply that need for generations to come.
What are people (who don’t work there) most surprised to learn about the Delaware City Refinery?
The complex and immense utility systems associated with the refinery are very impressive. Whether it’s the large Waste Water Treatment Unit or the massive Power Plant and high pressure steam boilers, the utilities systems associated with the Delaware City Refinery give us a great competitive advantage.