Disrupted chemical operations in US Gulf coast to end after weekend disruptions

12-Jan-10
USA’s Gulf region, particularly the area surrounding Houston, is the core of USA’s petrochemical industry. A cold front that swept through this area on this week dropped Houston's temperatures to 23° F (-5° C) and lesser for four consecutive nights, dipping on Friday to highs of 33° F – leaving many locations at freezing or below for at least 40 consecutive hours, as per ICIS. The spate of hard freezes that disrupted chemical operations in the greater Houston area and much of the US Gulf coast seem poised to finally end late. In a filing with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), ExxonMobil reported flaring at its olefins plant in Baytown, Texas, due to a loss of heat brought on by inclement weather, leading to reduced operating rates to minimise flaring emissions. It’s adjacent 562,500 bpd refinery in Baytown had a line leak in a gofiner unit that removes sulphur from crude oil. At Baton Rouge, Louisiana, ExxonMobil reported flaring at its 503,000 bpd refinery, which it said was due to frozen water seals. Eastman Chemical had shut down the propylene refrigeration compressor at its Longview plant in Texas due to “very persistent cold weather conditions” causing the transmitter to freeze. That caused an upset at the plant and also led to shutdown of other compressors. Motiva shut a gasoline-making fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) unit at its 290,000 bpd Port Arthur refinery in Texas, while Valero shut a hydrocracker in the east plant of its 315,000 bpd Corpus Christi refinery in Texas, both due to cold-weather issues. Shell reported an upset in the coker unit at its 332,000 bpd refinery in Deer Park, Texas, after a wet gas compressor tripped. Gulf-based producers including DuPont, Huntsman and Flint Hills Resources had previously reported production issues.
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