September 20, 2017 / 12:15 AM / 2 years ago

Valero shuts units at Port Arthur refinery after fire: sources

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Valero Energy Corp shut a coker and may close other units at its 335,000 barrel per day (bpd) Port Arthur, Texas, refinery, following a fire, said sources familiar with the plant’s operations.

The fire, which broke out in a coker feed tank at the plant around 11:50 a.m. CDT (1650 GMT) on Tuesday, has been extinguished, the company said in a statement, adding that no injuries have been reported.

The 100,000 bpd coker, which processes residual crude oil, was shut after the fire, said the sources, speaking on condition of anonymity as the matter was not public. The tank feeds residual crude oil to the coker.

The plant will likely shut its 75,000 bpd Atmospheric Vacuum Unit (AVU) 147, a crude distillation unit (CDU), the sources said. Energy industry intelligence service Genscape said the crude unit was shutting down on Tuesday afternoon.

The coker outage could also lead to the shutdown of other units at the refinery including the 270,000 bpd AVU 146 CDU, the sources said.

The length of the coker’s outage was unknown on Tuesday night, the sources said.

The Port Arthur refinery’s firefighters initially battled the fire and were assisted by firefighters from the nearby ChevronPhillips chemical plant and the Port Arthur Fire Department.

The Port Arthur Fire Department asked residents of the western side of the city 90 miles (145 km) east of Houston to remain indoors, according to a public notice. The shelter-in-place notice was canceled at about 2 p.m. CDT.

“Air monitoring conducted by EPA (The United States Environmental Protection Agency) and TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) both confirmed there was no negative off-site community impact,” the company said.

Gulf Coast gasoline grades strengthened after news of the fire. M-grade conventional gasoline differentials in the Gulf Coast firmed by about a penny a gallon, before slipping about a half-cent on the day, traders said. <PRO/U>

Valero returned most units at the Port Arthur refinery to production over the weekend, after the plant was shut on Aug. 30 in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

Restarts are considered the most dangerous times for workers at refineries, particularly after storms, as flooded equipment that had cooled has to be heated to hundreds of degrees.

CDUs do the primary refining of crude oil and provide feedstock for all other production units. Cokers convert residual crude supplied by the AVUs into motor fuel feedstock or petroleum coke, a coal substitute.

Reporting by Erwin Seba and Jessica Resnick-Ault; Additional reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar and David Gaffen in New York; Editing by Tom Brown and James Dalgleish

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