COMMENT POSTED ON OUR SHELL BLOG 12 JUNE 2012
Texvette: Is anyone surprised with the current issues with the new crude unit at Port Arthur. Word has it that: 1) the problems are much more severe than being reported, and 2) this is just “the tip of the iceberg”. Some wonder if the new $13 billion worth of units will ever start-up
Giant Port Arthur refinery unit seen shut for months
Published: Monday, 11 Jun 2012 | 4:15 PM ET
HOUSTON (Reuters) – Output at the biggest U.S. refinery could be cut by more than half for up to five months after Motiva Enterprise’s <MOTIV.UL> failed to restart a major new crude unit at the Port Arthur, Texas, plant over the weekend, sources familiar with operations said on Monday.Just two weeks after partners Saudi Arabia and Royal Dutch Shell <RDSa.L> cut the ribbon on the new 325,000 barrel per day crude distillation unit that pushed the plant’s capacity to 600,000 bpd, jointly owned Motiva shut the unit to fix what was thought to be a leaking valve impairing production.After the CDU twice failed to restart over the weekend, the refinery found major issues that will take at least two months and potentially up to five months to repair, the two sources who have knowledge of the refinery’s operations said.The news pushed up cash fuel prices and lent support to gasoline futures, traders said. It weighed on oil prices in expectations that other buyers in the United States — which saw a spike in imports from Saudi Arabia this year — would have to absorb additional supplies the kingdom had already booked into the market.”The Saudi loadings to the U.S. had risen massively a few months ago, as they wanted to show they could put barrels in the market when requested — and they were very vocal about it — as well as starting to supply Motiva,” said Katherine Spector, commodity strategist at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) in New York.
“The question now will be how much storage space at Motiva was already filled, and will they need to divert barrels to other customers.”
The entire refinery has not been shut by the outage because the pre-expansion 285,000 bpd crude distillation unit, continues to operate. CDU units perform the initial refining of crude oil coming into the refinery and provide feedstock for all other production units.
While it is not unusual for new refinery units to experience operational teething pains when they are first commissioned, a shut-down lasting months would be a major embarrassment for Motiva and its owners after a landmark $10 billion upgrade.