Motiva’s Port Arthur refinery had small fire

By Dan Wallach
The Beaumont Enterprise

A small fire and pipe leak occurred at the Motiva Enterprises Port Arthur refinery late Tuesday at its new and under-repair crude distillation unit.

Refinery workers put the fire out and achieved a safe unit shutdown, said Kimberly Windon, spokeswoman for Shell Oil Co., an ownership partner in Motiva with Saudi Refining Co.

“There was no damage, injuries or off-site impacts from the fire or pipe leak. We anticipate making the necessary adjustments/repairs and returning the unit to normal operations in an expeditious manner. This situation has not impacted the planned early 2013 full unit restart,” Windon said in a prepared statement.

The affected unit is the same one that in early June that suffered cracking in some of its pipe welds because a caustic that is used to break down high-sulfur crude oil was vaporized in the high heat of the unit when there was no crude in it. A small fire at that time caused the crude feed to shut down and the caustic feed continued.

After an assessment, Motiva executives proceeded with unit repairs and recently returned it to the refinery’s operators, anticipating full re-start sometime in January.

Motiva spent up to $10 billion in recent years to double the Port Arthur refinery’s daily capacity to 600,000 barrels and commissioned it in late May. However, the incident delayed full integration of the new unit into normal and ongoing refinery operations.