el segundo refinery installs new coke drums

August 6, 2014 – When you have a giant steel drum that's almost 100 feet long, 30 feet in diameter and weighs 300 tons, lifting it is a challenge. The task becomes even more daunting when you have six of them. Such was the task for Chevron's El Segundo Refinery this summer as it sought to lift its new coke drums into place using one of the largest cranes in the world.

The refinery uses the drums to generate feedstock, which is then converted into products such as gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. The refinery supplies more than 20 percent of the motor vehicle fuels used in Southern California and nearly half of the jet fuel at Los Angeles International Airport.

Crane Operations

The crane, built on site at Chevron’s El Segundo Refinery, stood over 400 feet tall with a lift capacity of 1,600 tons. Watch the video.

Like the transport of the drums in late February 2013 through the streets of Los Angeles County’s South Bay, the crane and drum replacement required an impressive amount of engineering. It took several years of planning and about two weeks of cooperative weather to lift the drums into place, starting with the removal of the existing 500-ton derrick structure.

The crane, which was delivered to the site by 70 rail cars and a dozen semi-trucks, is 400 feet tall and was constructed inside the refinery over a period of two months. It is designed to lift up to 1,600 tons. After the drums’ derrick structure was cut free, the crane lifted it, removed the old drums and replaced them with the new ones before reinstalling the framework. The old drums, originally installed in 1968, have reached the end of their life cycle and will be cleaned, cut into pieces and recycled.

The installation and removal of the coke drums was the final chapter in a massive undertaking that began in January 2013, when the new drums arrived from the manufacturer.


Originally built in Spain, the drums arrived at the Port of Los Angeles on a specially designed cargo ship after a month-long, 7,330-nautical mile journey to the U.S. West Coast. They were then barged two at a time over three successive Mondays to King Harbor in Redondo Beach, from where they made the 4.5-mile trek to the refinery.


The sheer size and height of the load required various infrastructure improvements and other mitigations, including raising power lines, replacing power poles, trimming trees to clear the pathway, and removing and replacing portions of the median. As part of the process, the company conducted extensive outreach with the various city councils, public safety agencies, harbor stakeholders, business and civic organizations, residents and businesses affected by the move. Every city along the route universally supported Chevron’s use of public streets for this important effort and the drums were transported safely without any impact to daytime commuters.


The event drew comparisons to the movement of the U.S. space shuttle Endeavour through the streets of Los Angeles, with 300 individuals involved in the transportation effort and a number of spectators positioned along the route to watch the proceedings.


“Just over a year ago, the cities of El Segundo, Redondo, Hermosa and Manhattan Beach were instrumental in helping Chevron facilitate the movement of these massive drums from King Harbor into our refinery in El Segundo,” said Frank Semancik, El Segundo Refinery’s general manager. He added, “We continue to be grateful for all the cities’ and communities’ support and we are proud of the planning and collaboration, which led to the safe and successful execution of this important project. Replacement of the coke drums will help ensure the continued operational reliability of the refinery.”

Published: August 2014