Four of Texas’ largest refineries are discovering widespread damage from the freezing condition that paralyzed the state this week and believe they will need weeks of repair, increasing the potential for persistent fuel shortages that could spread nationwide.
Exxon Mobil Corp.’s Baytown and Beaumont plants, Marathon Petroleum Corp.’s Galveston Bay refinery. and Total SE’s Port Arthur plant must have at least a few weeks to resume normal operations. Gasoline prices at the pump could hit $ 3 a gallon in May as the crimp supply goes out long before the driving season, said Patrick DeHaan, director of petroleum analysis for retail tracker GasBuddy.
The cold and power outages in the energy markets affected more than 20 oil refineries in Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma. According to Amrita Sen, chief oil analyst at consultant Energy Aspects Ltd., raw material processing capacity fell by around 5.5 million barrels per day.
When power outages that have left millions of houses in the dark and thaw frozen streets, drivers can get back on the streets. Refineries, however, are left with burst pipes, leaks, damaged equipment, and in some cases petroleum fluids that hardened into a kind of wax because the flow stopped.
“It’s going to be a tough restart for refineries,” said Andy Lipow, president of energy researcher Lipow Oil Associates in Houston. “They won’t start again until power is restored and they get approval from the utilities. I suspect the earliest reboot would start next weekend. “
Restarting a refinery is not like flicking a light switch when power is restored. In addition to fixing any damage, you need to slowly reheat, fully test, and then slowly boot up the devices to get them back flowing. Then test the output and test again until it meets specifications.
When a refinery hasn’t shut down major process facilities, such as gasoline-making facilities known as catalytic crackers, before a power outage, there are so-called dead legs, hydrocarbon and vapor pockets that can freeze, burst pipes and cause leaks. A sudden shutdown could cause fluids in the plumbing to harden and take days or weeks to remove. Even in the event of a controlled shutdown before a power failure, falling temperatures can damage the equipment.
Here are some details about the four Texas refineries that are expected to be out of service for weeks:
- Marathon’s 585,000 barrels-per-day Galveston Bay refinery in Texas City pushed back an impending major turnaround into March. She anticipates an outage of at least several weeks to repair equipment damaged by the frost and is waiting for power to return.
- The 580,500 barrels per day at Exxon’s Baytown Refinery may have been out of service for a month or more without an accurate estimate as damage assessments continue.
- Exxon’s Beaumont refinery, with a capacity of 369,000 barrels per day, is expected to be out of operation for at least a few weeks.
- Also in Port Arthur, Total’s refinery can take several weeks to return to full operation at 225,500 barrels a day as frozen water pipes and instruments are being repaired
Marathon and Exxon declined to comment. Total did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
At Motiva Enterprises LLC’s largest refinery, Motiva Enterprises LLC’s 607,000-barrel-per-day Port Arthur facility, staff remain on-site to inspect equipment and repair pipes damaged in the cold temperatures.
LyondellBasell Industries NV’s Houston refinery repairs leaks while waiting for nitrogen recovery from provider Praxair International Inc. and getting permission from the Texas Electric Reliability Council to rebuild its large electric refinery engines to start, said a person familiar with the operation. LyondellBasell spokeswoman Kimberly Windon said the company’s Gulf Coast locations were experiencing operational issues due to a temporary power outage at a supplier.
Barbara Powell and Jeffrey Bair, Bloomberg