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Rigby Refining executives are seeking a jury trial to determine if Phillips 66 and WRB Refining ‘copied’ their Magēmā low sulphur fuel technology.

A complaint has been filed in a Texas district court over the alleged use of the Magēmā technology which was developed by Rigby Refining CEO Michael Moor and Chief Technologist Bertrand Klussman.

Their solution is to hydroprocess an ISO 8217:2017 heavy marine fuel to remove sulphur while preserving the fuel’s key properties. The resulting product is said to be compliant with the ISO 8217:2017 standard, the IMO 2020 sulphur cap and the IMO’s emission control area (ECA) sulphur limits.

Moor and Klussman filed their first provisional application for a patent on 12 February 2017, and in the hope of commercialising their invention Moore arranged a meeting with Phillips 66 about the Magēmā technology. Moore is also said to have emailed Phillips a confidential presentation which identified ‘patents filed on both the process and operation parameters’.

After May 2017, communications from Phillips to Rigby Refining are said to have ceased for several months but in February 2018 contact was resumed, when Phillips 66’s Director of Hydroprocessing requested a technical discussion about the desulphurisation technology.

Further meetings took place after which Phillips 66’s Director of Hydroprocessing is said to have expressed scepticism that the idea presented by Rigby Refining was feasible.

A few weeks after a technical meeting between the two companies, on 26 March 2018, Phillips submitted a construction permit operation for an ‘International Maritime Operations Fuel Treatment Project’ to the Illinois EPA for its Wood River Refinery. The project summary is said to state that ‘the project would enable the petroleum refinery to remove sulphur compounds from fuel to be used on marine vessels so the fuel would meet new IMO standards’.

According to the Texas court documents, the plaintiff asserts that Phillips continued its adoption of the Magēmā patent-pending technology, and in June 2019 Phillips is said to have publicly announced its Wood River and Bayway LSFO hydrotreater projects.

In calling for a jury trial, the plaintiff asserts that: ‘On information and belief, given the interaction between Rigby Refining and Phillips, including multiple presentations pertaining to the technology, Phillips copied the patent-pending invention, likely hoping that the PTO would never issue the patents and/or that Magēmā would never assert its intellectual property rights , and implemented the patented technology in at least its Wood River Refinery and Bayway Refinery.’

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