Cold weather, power loss disrupt Texas refining

  • : Crude oil, Oil products
  • 21/02/15

Severe cold sweeping across Texas cut power supplies to millions of customers and disrupted at least 3.3mn b/d of refining capacity.

Refiners faced natural gas curtailments and rolling electric blackouts as the state's struggling power grid focused on residential service with sub-freezing temperatures.

Refiners throughout the Texas coast reported flaring today as they abruptly adjusted operations. Saudi Aramco-owned Motiva, operator of the single largest US refining complex at its 600,000 b/d refinery in Port Arthur, Texas, confirmed shutting down operations for "unprecedented freezing temperatures." Another 1.9mn b/d of refining capacity between Houston and the Louisiana border reported some kind of operational issue and flaring.

That included ExxonMobil's 560,500 b/d refinery and petrochemicals complex in Baytown, Texas. The oil major said in a community notice that it was shutting down operations "due to freezing weather conditions coupled with the curtailment of natural gas supplies throughout the state of Texas." LyondellBasell reported an unexpected power loss at 3am ET, around the time of state curtailments, at its 268,000 b/d refinery in Houston. The company declined to comment on its current status. Total, Valero and Shell, at its 340,000 b/d joint venture refinery in Deer Park, Texas, all reported heavy flaring associated with operating changes. Shell declined to comment on refining operations but said the site's electricity generating facility was "exporting electricity to the grid as the cold front continues to stress the availability of power in the region."

All 747,000 b/d of refining around Corpus Christi, Texas, reported some operational issues. Citgo said that its 157,500 b/d refinery there shut units and was waiting for third-party services to restart. Valero and Flint Hills Resources did not return requests for comment.

US refineries were already running at reduced rates to match lower demand as communities restrict travel and business activity to limit the spread of Covid-19. The US Gulf coast was operating at 8.2mn b/d, roughly 4pc less than processing rates in the same week of 2020.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the state's electric grid, cut power to the equivalent of 2mn homes early today in response to roughly 30,000 MW of power generation going offline in extreme cold.

The Southwestern Power Pool, which operates a grid across 17 midcontinent and Rocky Mountain states from eastern New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle up to the Dakotas, issued a similar warning of potential rolling blackouts earlier today.

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