Valero Refining Co.
Corpus Christi, TX, U.S.

Valero Butane Upgrading Project

​In May 1991, Fluor started the contract to perform a full scope of engineering, procurement and construction services for the Valero refinery in Corpus Christi that would convert butane into Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE), a high octane gasoline blendstock. The Butane Upgrading Project (BUP) is a large world class project that will produce 12,500 barrels per day of MTBE.

Client's Challenge

​The oxygen content of the MTBE results in cleaner engine emissions and reduces pollutants in the atmosphere. Additionally, MTBE is the preferred oxygenate used by refiners to meet mandated EPA regulator​s for the reformulated gasoline and Clean Air Act amendments.

The project uses the Universal Oil Products (UOP) licensed process for butane isomerization and dehydrogenation followed by Huel's licensed process for MTBE. The BUP's main unit converting isobutane to isobutylene for MTBE production is based on the UOP process Oleflex, which employs proven but innovative approaches.​

Fluor's Solution

​Fluor executed the project in two phases, with Phase 1 comprising the scope of work definition and detailed estimate and Phase 2 executing the engineering, procurement and construction. The BUP was performed under a lump sum with reimbursable for direct field work.

Fluor's Houston office was the lead for design and procurement, supported by the Corpus Christi and Manila offices.

Fluor is responsible for two of the only three Oleflex unit​s with isobutane feedstock ever built.


​The BUP startup began in mid-March, with product made within four weeks of mechanical completion. It had been operating at designed rates and meeting specifications since December 26, 1991.​​

The project was completed 47 days ahead of schedule and under budget.​ Valero awarded Fluor a concurrent butane upgrading project at the Corpus Christi refinery.