Hydrotreating Unit Fire at Baytown

Monday, October 8, 2012 @ 09:10 AM gHale

Exxon Mobil’s emergency teams battled a fire at its Baytown complex, which includes one of the largest refineries in the world.

The fire broke out Wednesday at 5 p.m. and remained confined to a process unit, said Exxon Mobil spokeswoman Rachael Moore. There were no reports of injuries and the company accounted for all employees, she said.

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By 8:30 p.m. firefighters put out the fire, a company statement said. A crew remained on the site late Wednesday to make sure a spot fire didn’t reappear.

According to officials familiar with refinery operations, the fire broke out at the diesel hydrotreating unit, which uses hydrogen to remove sulfur from motor fuel.

A hole in a reactor caused the fire and triggered flaring at the complex, a filing with the U.S. National Response Center (NRC) showed. It did not identify the unit involved.

A hydrotreater is not a main production unit at a refinery. The loss of a diesel hydrotreater could lead to reduced diesel production, but would not impact wide-scale plant operations.

Remaining plant operations did not suffer from the fire, the statement said.

Exxon Mobil’s Baytown complex houses both refining and chemical plants and has a staff of 2,200 employees and 2,100 contractors that keep it running 24 hours a day, according to the company website.

It is capable of refining 573,000 barrels per day of crude oil, making it one of the largest refineries in the world. The refinery processes crude from the Persian Gulf, Africa, South America and Mexico. The Baytown refinery was the nation’s largest refinery by capacity in 2011, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

It was not immediately clear what started the fire.

“As a precaution, our Industrial Hygiene staff is doing air quality monitoring around the complex and in the community,” Moore said.

More than 7.2 billion pounds of petrochemical products end up manufactured each year at the complex, according to Exxon Mobil’s website.

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