U.S. Gulf Coast Refineries Restart after Unusual Cold Snap

Reuters, January 18, 2018

Several major U.S. Gulf Coast refineries were restarting operations on Wednesday as temperatures warmed following record lows across the region overnight, freezing instrumentation and snapping power lines, according to refining sources.

The cold weather affected operations at Motiva Enterprises’ 603,000 barrel per day (bpd) Port Arthur, Texas, refinery, the nation’s largest, as well as Valero Energy’s refinery in the same city.

Valero was returning to normal operations at its 335,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) Port Arthur refinery after malfunctions overnight because of cold weather, upsetting instrumentation that regulates the production unit operations, said sources familiar with plant operations. The company did not respond to requests for comment.

Motiva was able to keep units in operation as temperatures fell to 19 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 7.2 Celsius), freezing instrumentation and triggering flaring early on Wednesday on the plant’s largest crude distillation unit, which, along with two similar units, does the primary refining of crude oil. Motiva declined to comment on its operations.

Instrumentation problems also led to the shutdown of the gasoline-producing fluidic catalytic cracking unit (FCCU) at Marathon Petroleum Corp’s 459,000 bpd Galveston Bay, Texas, refinery in Texas City, Texas. Marathon began restarting the FCCU on Wednesday, according to sources. The company declined to comment. Temperatures had climbed to 32 Fahrenheit (0 C) by Wednesday afternoon.

Citgo Petroleum Corp also was restarting the FCCU at its 157,500 bpd Corpus Christi, Texas, refinery on Wednesday after cold weather forced the unit to shut on Tuesday, according to sources. The company earlier confirmed the unit’s shutdown.

In Louisiana, two refineries lost power overnight as freezing temperatures snapped lines operated by local power provider Entergy Inc. Marathon said its 543,000 bpd Garyville, Louisiana, was hit by a power outage on Wednesday morning. Energy industry intelligence service Genscape said multiple units were shut at the refinery 36 miles (58 km) west of New Orleans. Valero’s 125,000 bpd Meraux, Louisiana, refinery also lost power on Tuesday night, according to sources familiar with plant operations, as part of a widespread outage on the east side of New Orleans.

At Valero’s 190,000 bpd Memphis, Tennessee, refinery, a hydrogen plant was shut on Tuesday due to freezing temperatures, which have forced outages at production units over the past two weeks, sources said. Valero did not respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting By Erwin Seba; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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