* $2.2-billion project increases refinery capability
* SRU and a vacuum unit also added to refinery
(Adds details about units, background)
HOUSTON, March 17 (Reuters) - Total Petrochemicals (TOTF.PA) was starting up a new 50,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) coking unit at its 232,000-bpd Port Arthur, Texas, refinery, a company spokeswoman said on Thursday.
The start-up began on Wednesday, completing a three-year, $2.2-billion project that will enable the refinery to process cheaper high-sulfur, high-density crude oils.
The coker recovers more refinable material from a barrel of oil and turns the residue into coke, which looks like coal and can be used to replace it.
The project is intended to increase the capabilities of the refinery.
A sulfur recovery unit (SRU) and a vacuum distillation unit were also added to the refinery as part of the project. (Reporting by Erwin Seba in Houston and Soma Das in Bangalore;editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid)