Deep Freeze Hits United States Oil Industry

Reuters, January 16, 2024

A severe winter storm shut a U.S. Gulf Coast refinery in Texas on Tuesday, triggered malfunctions at others and halved North Dakota oil production as it dumped snow and rain across a broad swath of the nation.

TotalEnergies' (TTEF.PA) 238,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) refinery in Port Arthur, Texas, was examining units after a plantwide power outage on Tuesday morning as a winter storm brought frigid temperatures to the U.S. Gulf Coast, sources familiar with the company's operations said.

North Dakota's oil production fell by half on Tuesday due to extreme cold weather and operational challenges, the state's pipeline authority said.

Oil production was estimated to have fallen between 600,000 and 650,000 barrels per day, according to the North Dakota Pipeline Authority.

Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) returned a gasoline-producing fluidic catalytic cracker and a coker at its 564,440-bpd refinery in the Houston suburb of Baytown, Texas, to normal operation after a malfunction triggered when severe cold crossed the area on Monday night.

Flint Hills Resources said its 343,000-bpd refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas, was significantly impacted by unseasonably cold weather, especially at its West Plant where instrumentation to operate equipment was affected by freezing rain overnight.

Oil prices fell on Tuesday as U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures settled at $72.40 a barrel, down 28 cents, or 0.4%. Global benchmark Brent crude futures rose 14 cents, or 0.2%, to finish at $78.29 a barrel.

RBOB gasoline fell 24 cents to settle at $2.1195 a gallon. Markets are seen as well-supplied with refiners have large stockpiles of the motor fuel.


Valero Energy Corp (VLO.N) began a planned overhaul on the large crude distillation unit (CDU) at its 335,000-bpd refinery in Port Arthur on Monday, people familiar with plant operations said on Tuesday.

In addition to shutting the 210,000-bpd AVU-146 CDU, Valero brought down a coker and a vacuum distillation unit (VDU) associated with AVU-146, the sources said. The work is planned to take 45 days to complete.

Units across half of Valero's Port Arthur refinery will be affected by the shutdown of AVU-146, which is the larger of two CDUs that begin the refining process by breaking down crude oil into feedstocks for all other units at the refinery.

Three refineries in Port Arthur, including Motiva Enterprises' 626,000-bpd plant, the nation's largest refinery, have major units shut. The Motiva refinery began a crude unit-coker overhaul on Jan. 8.

In a regulatory filing, Marathon Petroleum Corp (MPC.N) reported an upset on Monday on the 64,000-bpd residual hydrotreater at its 593,000-bpd Galveston Bay Refinery in Texas City, Texas. The unit returned to normal operation later on Monday.

Delek (DK.N) reported a malfunction due to cold temperatures on Sunday at its 73,000-bpd refinery in Big Spring, Texas.

Valero notified regulators on Sunday after upsets at its 195,000-bpd McKee refinery in Sunray, Texas, which is north of Amarillo, Texas.

Valero told residents near its 210,000 bpd Houston refinery on Tuesday it may have to use the plant's safety flare system to manage excess material.

Refineries use safety flares when they cannot process hydrocarbons normally.

(Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by Deepa Babington, Rosalba O'Brien and Jamie Freed)

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