Exxon Baton Rouge, Louisiana, refinery aims to restart CDU this week: sources

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HOUSTON (Reuters) - Exxon Mobil Corp plans to restart the large crude distillation unit (CDU) and a coker this week at its 502,500 barrel-per-day (bpd) Baton Rouge, Louisiana, refinery this week, sources familiar with plant operations said on Monday.

The 240,000 bpd PSLA 10 CDU and the 50,000 bpd coker were shut on Feb. 12 following a natural gas pipeline fire that idled most of the production units at the refinery, the sources said.

Exxon spokesman Jeremy Eikenberry said on Monday operations were continuing at the Baton Rouge refinery and adjoining chemical plant. He declined to discuss the status of individual units.

PSLA 10 and the coker could restart as early as the middle of this week, if all goes as planned, the sources said.

Three of the four CDUs at the refinery were shut by the fire. The pipeline that caught on fire supplies natural gas that fuels boilers on the units, the sources said.

The CDUs do the primary breakdown of crude oil into the hydrocarbon feedstocks, from which motor fuels like gasoline and diesel and plastics are made in other production units at the refinery.

Restarting PSLA 10 has been a top goal with for Exxon since the fire, the sources said. Restart efforts depend on restoring the natural gas feed to the unit.

Returning the refinery to production is expected to take at least a month from the date of the fire, sources have said.

The coker converts residual crude oil from distillation units into feedstock for motor fuels or petroleum coke, a coal substitute.

Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and David Gregorio