Coker Shut after TX Refinery Fire

Wednesday, September 20, 2017 @ 01:09 PM gHale

A fire at a Valero Energy Corp. refinery Tuesday in Port Arthur, TX, sent black plumes of smoke into the air and caused officials to order a shelter in place.

The fire, started at 11:50 a.m. Tuesday, said Valero Energy Corp. spokeswoman Lillian Riojas.

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Valero shut a coker, where sources said the fire started in the coker feed tank, and may close other units at its 335,000 barrel per day (bpd) refinery.

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

Valero emergency crews responded and the Port Arthur Fire Department assisted, she said. The company also contacted local authorities and is cooperating with public agencies.

The city said the shelter-in-place, which included some schools, lifted by 2:30 p.m. Riojas said the shelter-in-place was done as a precautionary measure.

Riojas said there were no reported injuries and all employees were accounted for.

“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.

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. 

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

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