TPC’s fire at Port Neches, Texas, stresses US crude C4 and butadiene supply chain

Author Angie Joe, Consulting

A serious fire broke out at TPC’s Port Neches, Texas, 425,000 t/yr butadiene (BD) facility on 27 November, prompting shifts in the entire supply chain.

The reaction involved cracker operators with crude C4 that is typically shipped to TPC’s Port Neches or Houston facilities; BD contract customers; other BD producers who worked to fill the void; companies who stored

material in TPC’s onsite tanks; and finally, those who were dependent on an industrial gas facility that was also onsite at Port Neches.

 

TPC customers reported that the supplier declared force majeure later that day. Twelve tanks were impacted. There were no fatalities, but on 2 December four of the plant’s towers had

been compromised or fallen. The fire was extinguished the next day. By 5 December, the company said its chemical plant

and onsite storage were unstable and indefinitely shut. Then on 6 December, four days after extinguishing the fire, small fires at the site broke out and continued to burn on 9 December. The company is planning to safely transfer remaining materials from the site, depending on tank integrity inspections. Investigations will commence once the site is deemed safe.

 

Port Neches is home to a cluster of industrial complexes. Phillips 66 operates a crude oil and refined products tank farm,

marine facilities and connections to several crude and refined product pipelines. Motiva has marine capabilities in the vicinity. Huntsman operates propylene oxide (PO) and methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) units, and Lion Elastomers produces synthetic rubber nearby. There are also three crackers with no BD extraction capacity.

 

Three key themes emerged from the TPC fire: the logistics of moving crude C4 and BD; acetylene content; and hydraulic constraints.

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