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Texas startup hopes to build first big US oil refinery since 1977

Element Fuels Holdings, a Dallas-area startup proposing to build the first all-new U.S. oil refinery in nearly 50 years, said Thursday it is renewing efforts to build a major facility in South Texas.

The Brownsville, Texas, project has been proposed at least twice before by entrepreneur John Calce through his startups ARX Energy and JupiterMLP, one of which led to a bankruptcy filing. The project was originally owned by a holding company that also owned Centurion Terminals.

Element is seeking funding for the first phase, which will allow the refinery to process about 50,000 to 55,000 barrels per day of naphtha feedstock into gasoline. The company estimates the first phase will cost about $1.2 billion, Calce said.

The company said it is in talks with banks, private debt funds and the U.S. Department of Energy for funding through the Inflation Reduction Act.

Previous efforts under JupiterMLP failed “for a variety of reasons,” said John Calce, CEO of Addison, Texas-based Element Fuels, which holds a Texas state permit authorizing construction of the plant.

The refinery will eventually process U.S. shale oil from fields in West and South Texas, Calce said in an interview. By comparison, U.S. refineries on the Gulf Coast process mostly medium to heavy crude.

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