HOUSTON (Reuters) - Valero Energy Corp has restarted the coker at its 335,000-barrel-per-day (bpd) Port Arthur, Texas, refinery, about four days after a fire on a feed tank shut the unit, said sources familiar with plant operations.
The refinery’s large crude distillation unit (CDU) is feeding the coker, bypassing the heavily damaged tank, but is running at reduced rates, the sources said. The small crude unit remains shut and the tank may take months to repair.
The wall of the coker feed tank partially melted from the heat of the Tuesday blaze in the residual crude contained inside, the sources said. An adjoining tandem tank was also damaged.
No injuries were reported due to the fire, which was extinguished about an hour and a half after it broke out.
The fire forced Valero to shut the 100,000 bpd coker and the 75,000 bpd AVU 147 CDU.
By late Friday Valero had bypassed the tank and was able to begin feeding the coker directly from 268,000 bpd AVU 146 CDU with that crude unit’s production cut back.
Repairing the coker-feed tank and the tandem tank may take as long as six months, the sources said.
Whether it may be possible to restart the small crude unit before the tanks are repaired was unclear on Sunday.
At the time the fire broke out, the Port Arthur refinery was completing the restart of units shut on Aug. 30 by flooding from Tropical Storm Harvey.
The tank was initially damaged by a malfunction during the week before the fire broke out. That damage was being repaired shortly before the fire broke out.
CDUs do the primary refining of crude oil and provide hydrocarbon feedstock to all other production units.
Cokers convert residual feed from distillation units into feedstock for motor fuels or petroleum coke, which can be used as a coal substitute.
Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by Sandra Maler and Mary Milliken