ChevronTexaco's Richmond Refinery on the Block?

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ChevronTexaco's Richmond Refinery on the Block?

PLEASANTON, Calif. -- Despite carefully worded public statements implying the contrary, ChevronTexaco Corp. is considering closing its Richmond, Calif. refinery or converting it to a bulk terminal if profit doesn't improve dramatically over the next three years.

As part of its "Project Zeus" global reorganization, the San Ramon-based refiner/marketer also is considering possible sale of the 225,000 barrel-per-day refinery, California's third-largest, if profits don't increase by at least $150 million in that period, according to a report in the East Bay Business Times.

The report said the refinery's new general manager, Jim Whiteside, told the plant's 1,400 employees and its outside contractors, who already have seen 800 jobs vanish in the wake of Whiteside's rapid, far-reaching austerity moves.

Although such shutdown threats aren't uncommon when refiners are attempting to win concessions from employee unions or contractors, industry sources familiar with ChevronTexaco and Whiteside's reputation as a no-nonsense cost-cutter believe he isn't bluffing - and has the backing of David O'Reilly, ChevronTexaco's chairman and CEO.

In carefully worded statements over the weekend, accompanying second-quarter earnings reports showing ChevronTexaco quadrupled profits from the same period in 2002, company spokesmen reiterated a corporate commitment to West Coast refineries and the California market, the biggest and one of the most lucrative in the nation. ChevronTexaco's West Coast refineries are in Richmond and El Segundo.