Congressman Mark DeSaulnier responds to Marathon Martinez Refinery 'indefinitely idled': 'Big loss'

MARTINEZ, Calif. -- The Marathon Petroleum Co. will "indefinitely idle" its refinery in unincorporated Contra Costa County and convert the site to a terminal facility, the company announced on its website Friday night.

On Sunday, Congressman Mark DeSaulnier made the following statement in response to the announcement by Marathon Petroleum Corporation that it will "indefinitely idle" its Martinez refinery and convert it to a terminal facility.

He writes: "This move is a big loss for our workforce and potentially the economy. That is why, before the pandemic hit and had a drastic impact on energy production, I started convening labor unions, environmental groups, and local governments to talk about how we prepare for a shift to sustainable energy and renewables in Contra Costa. The transition needs to be as successful as possible for everyone and we cannot leave workers behind - they need to be guaranteed meaningful and comparable work. I will continue to bring together stakeholders to support workers, our community, and the environment and improve Contra Costa's energy assets."

The company is also putting a New Mexico refinery on indefinite hold and announced that most jobs would be lost at the two sites, with phased layoffs starting in October.

"We are also evaluating the strategic repositioning of Martinez to a renewable diesel facility, which aligns with California's Low Carbon Fuel Standards objectives and MPC's greenhouse gas reduction targets," the company's website announced.

Plummeting demand for gasoline amid COVID-19 coronavirus-related travel restrictions put the Marathon Martinez Refinery on a temporary hold in April and the facility began winding down production.

The refinery employs about 740 people and can process 161,000 barrels of crude oil per day. The refinery produces gasoline, diesel fuel, distillates, petroleum coke, propane, heavy fuel oil and refinery-grade propylene.

The refinery opened in 1913, and was called the Avon Refinery, named for the unincorporated Contra Costa County area north of Concord and east of Martinez. Since then, operators have included Phillips, Tosco,

Ultramar Golden Eagle and Tesoro. Marathon bought the refinery in 2018.

In a statement on its website, the company said:

"On July 31, we informed employees at our Martinez and Gallup refineries that we will indefinitely idle these facilities with no plans to restart normal operations. As part of these changes, Martinez will be converted to a terminal facility. We are also evaluating the strategic repositioning of Martinez to a renewable diesel facility, which aligns with California's Low Carbon Fuel Standards objectives and MPC's greenhouse gas reduction targets. Indefinite idling unfortunately means most jobs at these refineries will no longer be necessary, and we expect to begin a phased reduction of staffing levels in October. We do not anticipate supply disruptions in these regions, and we will continue to utilize our integrated system to meet customer commitments."

Bay City News contributed to this report