Texas refinery unit shut down for ‘several months’ as it investigates major corrosion problem

Motiva Enterprises LLC has announced it is preparing to keep its new crude oil unit shut for “several months” as it investigates major corrosion problems that have crippled the country’s biggest refinery weeks after a massive expansion.

In the first public acknowledgment of a potentially long-term outage at the Port Arthur, Texas, plant, Motiva co-owner Royal Dutch Shell Plc confirmed the 325,000-barrel-per- day (bpd) unit was shut due to “corrosion problems,” as posted on integritythatworks.com earlier this week.

“The outage of the new crude unit may continue for several months, while the causes of the issue are established and rectified,” Shell said in a statement late Wednesday.

Sources said earlier this week the outage, initially estimated at two to five months, could now extend to a year.

Shell, which runs the Motiva joint venture with state oil firm Saudi Aramco, said all secondary units built as part of the five-year, $10 billion project were fully operational, although some were running at reduced throughput.

Separately, sources familiar with operations said one of the new units — a catalytic feed hydrotreater that removes sulfur from feedstock going to the refinery’s gasoline-producing fluidic catalytic cracking unit — was being shut down this week because of a lack of feedstock from the idled crude unit.

The sources also said Motiva was shutting an older catalytic reformer, which creates gasoline additives.

Motiva officials were not immediately available to comment on details of the secondary unit operations.

In the statement, Shell said the refinery’s original 275,000 bpd complex was operating “as per plan.”

Motiva’s Port Arthur refinery is not shutting the refinery’s FCC, but will emphasize production of diesel, which is yielding higher returns for U.S. refiners as an export, the sources said.

The new crude distillation unit, which began production in April and was shut following a June 9 fire, may be idle for up to a year to repair extensive corrosion found in the unit.

SOURCE: http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/06/21/refinery-operations-motiva-portarthur-idINL1E8HL2TI20120621

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