September 14, 2017 / 6:06 PM / 6 months ago

Largest U.S. refinery running at about half capacity

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Motiva Enterprises said on Thursday that the nation’s largest crude oil refinery was operating stably at about half capacity as its Port Arthur, Texas restarts following an Aug. 30 shutdown forced by Tropical Storm Harvey.

Sources familiar with plant operations said the Port Arthur refinery was running at about 37 percent of its 603,000-barrel-per-day (bpd) capacity by Thursday morning.

“Motiva confirms start up activities are proceeding to plan and the Port Arthur refinery is operating stably at approximately half capacity,” the company said in a statement shortly after noon CDT (1700 GMT) on Thursday.

The refinery was using its safety flare system on Thursday as it brings units in the newest part of the refinery online, the sources said. The refinery was synchronizing the main production units currently in operation to boost production at the large crude unit.

The refinery’s largest crude distillation unit (CDU), the 325,000-bpd VPS-5, was the only one of three CDUs running on Thursday. The other two CDUs are currently idle. VPS-5 accounts for 53 percent of the refinery’s crude oil processing capacity.

VPS-5, the refinery’s 105,000-bpd Hydrocracking Unit 2 (HCU-2) and 110,000-bpd Delayed Coking Unit 2 (DCU-2) are in operation. They are in an area that was added to the refinery in 2012 at the completion of a $10 billion expansion. The area was less flooded than other parts of the refinery.

Motiva resumed production on DCU-2 on Wednesday. HCU-2 resumed production on Tuesday. The area also includes sulfur recovery units and a naphtha processing center.

Returning the remainder of the refinery outside the expansion area to production is expected to take place in the four to eight weeks after the Aug. 30 shutdown, sources have told Reuters.

The sources said some time will be needed to clear the refinery’s 81,000 bpd-gasoline-producing fluidic catalytic cracking unit from the affects of being under 4 feet of floodwater.

CDUs refine crude oil coming into a refinery and provide feedstock for all other units.

Hydrocrackers use hydrogen under high heat and pressure with a catalyst to produce motor fuels, especially diesel from gas oil. Cokers produce feedstocks to make motor fuels and petroleum coke, a coal substitute, from residual crude oil.

Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by Paul Simao and Jonathan Oatis

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