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Texas petrochemical restarts continue slowly after freeze

March 03/2021

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Texas petrochemical producers continued on March 1 restart efforts at plants shut during sustained sub-freezing temperatures the week of Feb. 15, with much attention focused on bringing olefin plants back online to provide critical feedstocks for derivatives, reported S&P Global.

"It's going to be a while" before production chains resume normal output, a market source said, noting that inspections involve a process of discovery "to determine if everything is okay."

Multiple sources noted that process has been deliberate given the sheer magnitude of pipes and equipment exposed to frigid temperatures that rarely hit the region for at least 72 hours straight as they did the week of Feb. 15.

"Many complexes are interdependent operations, so they have to start up sequentially," a source noted. If one unit in such a production chain is unable to restart at the same time, others have to wait.

"It is what it is and you've got to be patient," the source added.

At its height, the freeze took about 75% of 40 million mt/year of US ethylene capacity offline, with the vast majority along the Texas Coast. Some has resumed operations, while others remain shut amid inspections or have faced ups and downs during restart efforts, market sources said.

As MRC wrote before, Exxon Mobil Corp has restarted the gasoline-producing and diesel-producing units at its 369,024 barrel-per-day (bpd) oil refinery in Beaumont, Texas. Almost all of the refinerys units have restarted since being shut by freezing weather on Feb. 15. The 120,000-bpd gasoline-producing fluidic catalytic cracker (FCC) and 65,000-bpd diesel-producing hydrocracker restarted on Saturday.

ExxonMobil's operational shutdowns include polyethylene (PE) facilities amid power outages prompted by the deep freeze that has enveloped the US Gulf Coast. "This event has caused widespread power outages across Texas and Louisiana" Feb. 15," the letter, dated Feb. 16, said. "As a consequence, several ExxonMobil Chemical operations have experienced loss of power and other key utilities, impacting our ability to resume full operations." ExxonMobil operates three PE units in Mont Belvieu, Texas, with combined capacity of 880,000 mt/year, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics.

Exxon is among many petrochemical producers that shut Feb. 14 and subsequent days because of sustained extreme sub-freezing temperatures in the region. ExxonMobil previously confirmed Feb. 16 that the company had shut all refining and chemical operations at its Baytown and Beaumont, Texas, complexes. Ethylene produced at Baytown feeds the Mont Belvieu PE operations.

Ethylene is the main feedstock for the production of PE.

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's estimated PE consumption totalled 2,220,640 tonnes in 2020, up by 2% year on year. Only shipments of low density polyethylene (LDPE) and high density polyethylene (HDPE) increased.

ExxonMobil is the largest non-government owned company in the energy industry and produces about 3% of the world"s oil and about 2% of the world's energy.
Author:Margaret Volkova
Tags:PE, crude and gaz condensate, LDPE, HDPE, ethylene, petrochemistry, Exxon Mobil, Russia, USA.
Category:General News
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