Robinson, Illinois,
04:54 PM

MPC christens cavern in keeping with tradition

Nearly 50 distinguished guests from MPC and MPLX, as well as representatives from contractors WSP USA and Thyssen Mining descended 650 feet below ground on the evening of May 16, wearing suits, gowns and hardhats for a traditional Cavern Christening Dinner in the belly of the new MPLX Robinson Butane Cavern, which is scheduled to begin service in 2018.

In groups of seven or eight, attendees boarded the yellow “service skip” elevator – that in the months before had carried workers and explosives – to make their way to the depths of the cavern, which – at 650 feet below ground – is deeper than the 630-foot-high Gateway Arch in nearby St. Louis is tall.

Aptly serenaded by chamber music played by a violinist and cellist, attendees toasted the successful completion of the excavation portion of the cavern project with sparkling juice and enjoyed a meal of steak, salmon and apple strudel in a makeshift dining room lit by strings of lights between the high walls of the cavern’s narrow shale corridors.

The event was held in the tradition of underground dinner celebrations that have long been hosted in caverns, among the walls of diamond-studded mines and in underwater tunnels. In MPC’s tradition, the dinner was timed to celebrate the milestone of excavation being completed.

“It was a great event celebrating the culmination of a successful phase of the project ahead of schedule and on budget. Now we convert to storage preparation efforts,” said MPC Project Manager Ben Hill.

The historic event included guided underground tours of the cavern that is being built to a capacity of 1.4 million barrels and is intended to hold all of the excess butane produced throughout the summer by the MPC refinery in Robinson, Illinois, as well as additional purchases to supplement the winter gasoline-blending needs at both the Robinson refinery and MPC’s refinery in Detroit.