Texas City Plants Restarting

Monday, May 2, 2011 @ 05:05 PM gHale

Salt and other residue that built up on transmission equipment at substations and other locations, led to short circuits at Texas City refineries and one chemical plant last week.

The restart processes at facilities owned by BP, Dow Chemical and Valero was going to take several days to complete.

BP’s refinery, which is the third largest in the country and can process up to 460,000 barrels of crude oil each day, began its restart process Thursday evening. The others began restarting Friday.

“The restart process continues with some production units back online. It will still be a couple of days before the plant reaches planned rates,” said Bill Day, a spokesman for Valero, whose refinery can process up to 245,000 barrels per day.

Dow Chemical expected the restart process at its facility, which manufactures more than 30 chemical products used in such things as plastics, solvents and pharmaceuticals, to continue through the weekend, said spokeswoman Beth Dombrowa.

The facilities in Texas City, located 35 miles southeast of Houston, went offline after experiencing power outages late Monday evening and early Tuesday morning. There were additional outages Tuesday evening and early Wednesday.

The oil and chemical companies said they held off bringing their facilities back online until they knew for sure the cause of the outages had been determined.

Texas New Mexico Power Co., the electricity provider for the refineries, said salt and other residue that built up on transmission equipment at substations and other locations caused the outages, leading to short circuits. The residue is apparently due to the lack of rain and extremely dry conditions the area has recently been experiencing.

Over the weekend, crews with Texas New Mexico Power finished cleaning all equipment that provides power to those refineries and chemical plants affected by the power outages, said company spokeswoman Cathy Garber.

Crews then moved on to cleaning equipment for other industrial customers in Texas City and that work would probably take a couple of weeks to complete, Garber said.

The power outages late Monday evening and early Tuesday morning prompted Texas City officials to advise residents to stay indoors because of potentially harmful chemicals that might have released in the air when production units shut down because of the outages. Officials lifted the advisory several hours later.

Officials with the various oil and chemical refiners said their tests didn’t find any harmful levels of emissions as a result of the outages. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality initially reported that some readings taken by its staff members showed high levels of volatile organic compounds. But the agency later said those high readings were invalid.

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