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Caribbean oil refinery ceases operations upon receipt of US regulators order

May 18/2021

MOSCOW (MRC) -- US regulators ordered the Limetree Bay refinery on St. Croix, US Virgin Islands, to cease operations for at least 60 days, throwing the multibillion-dollar overhaul of the massive plant into jeopardy, reported Reuters.

The Caribbean refinery has suffered several financial and operational setbacks since its private equity owners sought to restart the 1,500 acre (607-hectare) facility idled since 2012. It voluntarily stopped processing this week after showering nearby homes with an oily mist for the second time this year.

The incident exceeded the plant's permit for sulfur dioxide emissions, the US Environmental Protection Agency said. The EPA ordered the facility closed "due to multiple improperly conducted operations that present an imminent risk to public health" and signaled it might take further action.

A Limetree spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment. On Thursday, a malfunction in a processing unit led the company to send staff to inspect local properties. It advised residents not to drink from rainwater cisterns.

Its former owners filed for bankruptcy in 2015, facing heavy losses and US Clean Air Act violations that required millions of dollars in upgrades. In 2016, Boston-based private equity firm Arclight Capital Partners acquired it and recruited other investors including EIG Global Partners that put about $3 billion into a plan to begin processing 210,000 barrels per day of crude into gasoline, diesel and fuel oil.

Conditions at the old facility caused delays, as did the COVID-19 pandemic. After an extensive overhaul, operators last year began restarts that led to a fire. Oil rained on nearby homes for the second time in four months.

"These repeated incidents at the refinery have been and remain totally unacceptable. Today, I have ordered the refinery to immediately pause all operations until we can be assured that this facility can operate in accordance with laws that protect public health," EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement.

Regan called for an independent audit of operations and for the refinery to develop a plan to correct repeated malfunctions.

As MRC informed earlier, in early May, the EPA said if it determines that Limetree's operations present an "imminent risk" to residents health, it would take appropriate action to safeguard the public. EPA sent air monitors to the island in the first week of May to measure sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide emissions, though they are not functional as yet.

Meanwhile, Limetree Bay said air quality testing near its US Virgin Islands refinery found zero concentrations of sulfur dioxide, hours after the National Guard said it found elevated levels of the chemical during its own testing.

We remind that in late March 2021, EPA said it had revoked an expansion permit for the Limetree Bay oil refinery in the US Virgin Islands, citing concerns that the area around the facility is overburdened with pollution. The decision allowed the plant to keep operating but blocked ongoing expansion work pending an EPA review to assess measures the facility needs to take to protect nearby residents.

Ethylene and propylene are the main feedstocks for the production of polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP), respectively.

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's estimated PE consumption totalled 576,270 tonnes in the first three month of 2021, up by 4% year on year. Low density polyethylene (LDPE) and high density polyethylene (HDPE) shipments increased. At the same time, PP shipments to the Russian market totalled 410,890 tonnes in January-March 2021, up by 56% year on year. Supply of homopolymer PP and PP block copolymers increased.
Author:Margaret Volkova
Tags:PP, PE, crude and gaz condensate, PP block copolymer, homopolymer PP, propylene, LDPE, HDPE, ethylene, petrochemistry, Russia, USA.
Category:General News
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