LIMA — The Cenovus Lima Refinery hosted about a dozen community officials at its plant Wednesday.
It was only the second group that had toured the facility since COVID-19 forced the cancellation of public tours.
Among those on the tour was Lima Mayor David Berger.
“We had an opportunity today to take a tour of the refinery campus to understand since the completion of the Crude Oil Flexibility project, how all of that is working and actually to be in the facility to see where improvements were made,” Berger said.
The Crude Oil Flexibility project, completed in 2019, has increased heavy oil processing capacity at the refinery to 40,000 barrels a day.
“The Crude Oil Flexibility project allowed us to process a heavier crude, which is a more economic feedstock, not necessarily allowing us to increase capacity, but more an optimized feedstock is what that project does. Now, obviously, it was a big project and we’re very proud of where we’re at with it now,” said Dean Hempfling, director of operations at the Lima refinery.
Another project, the Water Re-Use project uses pioneering technology to clean and recycle water in the plant for continuous use, conserving a vital natural resource.
“We’ve always had a permit requirement, it’s just we were discharging every day. Now with Water Re-Use, obviously, it’s a very limited discharge. Most of the time, our water never sees the (Ottawa) river. We completely reuse it on site here,” Hempfling said.
Allen County Commissioner Beth Seibert was also on the tour. She was previously involved in the Ottawa River Coalition.
“As the Ottawa River Coalition coordinator, the refinery was a pretty important partner and I was really excited when the folks here explained the whole process of the water reuse and the impacts that it was going to have on the river,” Seibert said.
The refinery will soon enter into what is being called a turnaround, where half of the facility will be shut down and around 3,000 workers from out of state will be brought in to do the maintenance work.
Mayor Berger had previously expressed his concerns about this issue.
“I’ve continued to be concerned about the need for local workforce be prioritized. That is a priority for me. It always has been. I have to say, though, that I object to the personalized attack that’s occurred and I don’t do business like that.
“I believe, yes, the community has a stake in the economic benefits of the jobs that are associated here. That includes both the employees that are the direct employees of the company, but also the skilled trades that help support this facility,” Berger said.
“But I think that the issues around safety are paramount. The issues around making sure that the community and the facility have a relationship where we understand both of the joint responsibilities we have as well as the joint benefits that accrue, all of that matters. I’ve been involved in it and I will continue to stay involved in that discussion,” Berger said.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.