One More Texas Refinery Suffers Outage

Thursday, May 12, 2011 @ 04:05 PM gHale


Cleaning residue off transmission equipment that caused a series of power outages at several Texas City, TX, refineries last month might have led to another power outage at a different facility.

ConocoPhillips’ refinery in Sweeny lost power at 11:15 a.m. Tuesday, said company spokesman Rich Johnson. Power was back by 1 p.m.

“We’re in the process of restarting the affected units. No injuries or offsite impact was reported. The cause of power outage still under investigation,” he said.

The refinery in Sweeny, located about 65 miles southwest of Houston, can process up to 247,000 barrels per day.

Late last month, several refineries in Texas City, located southeast of Houston, experienced a series of power outages.

The electricity provider, Texas New Mexico Power Co., said salt and other residue that built up on transmission equipment at substations and other locations, caused the short circuits.

Texas New Mexico Power spokeswoman Cathy Garber said since last month’s outages, the electricity provider has been cleaning the residue off of all its transmission equipment in Southeast Texas.

On Tuesday, workers had finished cleaning some of this equipment at the refinery in Sweeny and were in the process of powering it back on when something went wrong, Garber said.

The problem might could be on the “refinery side of things” but officials are still trying to determine what exactly caused the outage, she said.

The temporary shutdown of the refinery in Sweeny prompted the facility’s flare system to burn off any chemical releases.

“We are conducting air monitoring in the area to insure there was no health risk in the community,” Johnson said.

The two Texas City refineries, BP’s troubled refinery and another operated by Valero Energy Corp, have reportedly released more than 150,000 pounds of pollutants into the air after power troubles forced emergency shutdowns at several refineries in the area.

That figure could grow as the companies restart their equipment and file more emissions reports with regulators.

What’s not clear is how the sizable release has affected air quality in the area. Conflicting accounts from local officials and environmental regulators about air monitoring results have raised more questions than answers.



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