Royal Dutch Shell and Saudi Aramco unveiled the $10 billion expansion of their joint-venture Motiva Enterprises Texas Gulf Coast refinery on Thursday as it neared its top capacity, taking the crown as the largest in the U.S.

"This ambitious expansion creates this country's largest refinery and one of the most advanced anywhere," said Shell Chief Executive Peter Voser under a huge party tent next to the churning plant.

With the completion of a new crude distillation unit (CDU) and associated units, the refinery's newly minted 600,000 bpd capacity eclipses Exxon Mobil Corp's 560,640 bpd Baytown, Texas, refinery, as the largest in the country. The refinery's pre-expansion capacity was 285,000 bpd.

Motiva also aims to increase fuel exports to up to 100,000 barrels per day once pipeline infrastructure from the plant to its docks is completed, said Bob Pease, Motiva president and CEO. He didn't say how much the refinery currently exports.

Last year the U.S. became a net exporter for the first time since 1949, having shipped out 439,000 bpd more fuel than was imported.

The Motiva project was launched in 2007, when U.S. fuel demand was up and refinery capacity was seen as inadequate. That changed when the global financial crisis hit, slashing demand and prompting closures of several unprofitable refineries, particularly in the U.S. Northeast.

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