ARKANSAS, January 13 (Future Headlines)- In a significant development impacting the energy landscape, both crude distillation units (CDUs) and two vacuum distillation units (VDUs) at TotalEnergies’ 238,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) Port Arthur refinery in Texas were shut down on Thursday. This operational disruption is reported to be a consequence of a malfunction on the gasoline-producing fluidic catalytic cracker (FCC), resulting in a temporary halt to critical units responsible for converting crude oil into feedstock for various refinery processes.
The affected units include the 150,000-bpd ACU-1 CDU, the 40,000-bpd ACU-2, the 51,000-bpd VDU-1, and the 60,000-bpd VDU-2. These units play a pivotal role in the overall functioning of the refinery, and their shutdown poses challenges to the production processes downstream. The malfunction on the 76,000-bpd FCC-2 is identified as the root cause of the shutdown, prompting the temporary closure of key units.
TotalEnergies has not provided specific comments on the refinery’s operations, with spokesperson Marie Maitre declining to offer insights into the situation. However, sources familiar with plant operations have highlighted the occurrence of a malfunction on the FCC-2, leading to the shutdown of critical CDUs and VDUs. The 76,000-bpd FCC-2, which encountered issues reaching full production levels since its three-month overhaul in late November, has been a focal point of challenges within the refinery.
TotalEnergies filed a notice with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) on Thursday, acknowledging the malfunction that began on Wednesday afternoon and continued until Thursday morning. During this period, steam use and production were reportedly reduced. The notice also indicated that FCC-2 had returned to normal operation, but the broader impact of the shutdown on other units remains a concern.
FCC-2 has been undergoing challenges in reaching full production levels since completing a three-month overhaul in late November. Sources have pointed out that the overhaul included the replacement of a significant component – the 1.3-million-pound (589.7 metric-ton) reactor on the unit. The struggles faced by FCC-2 have been a recurring theme, with its operational issues affecting the functioning of ACU-2 and VDU-1, both of which remained shut into mid-December.
The shutdown of CDUs and VDUs at the Port Arthur refinery has broader implications for feedstock production, as these units are responsible for converting crude oil into essential components for various refinery processes. The temporary closure raises concerns about potential disruptions in the supply chain and the refinery’s ability to meet production demands. Feedstock shortages could reverberate across the refining industry, impacting the availability and pricing of refined products.
TotalEnergies’ refinery shutdown comes at a time when the energy industry is navigating challenges ranging from supply chain disruptions to geopolitical uncertainties. The incident adds to the complexity of an already dynamic market, where fluctuations in refinery operations can influence commodity prices. The response of the industry, regulatory bodies, and market participants will be closely monitored to assess the short-term and potential long-term effects on the energy landscape.
Reporting by Moe Khaled; Editing by Sarah White