UpdateEnterprise says most Texas operations unaffected by fire

08 February 2011 23:04  [Source: ICIS news]

Enterprise fire in Mont Belvieu, photo courtesy of Baytown Sun(adds updates throughout)

HOUSTON (ICIS)--Enterprise Products on Tuesday said the main facilities at its Mont Belvieu natural gas liquids (NGL) complex in Texas were still operational despite the ongoing fire in the west storage facility.

As of late Tuesday afternoon, one worker was still unaccounted for, the company said.

Enterprise said it would not be able to fully assess damages to the facility until the fire is extinguished, but did not believe the fire posed an immediate danger to the community.

Moreover, Enterprise said its main facilities at Mont Belvieu were not damaged and remained operational, including its NGL fractionators, propylene fractionators, butane isomerisation units and its octane enhancement facility.

Enterprise’s north and east facilities as well as import/export terminals on the Houston Ship Channel were also still operational, the company said.

US ethylene offers shot up following the fire, which news reports said started at 12:30 hours Houston time (18:30 GMT).

Ethylene for February was offered at 49.00 cents/lb, up from 45.50 cents/lb in the morning, according to market sources.

Meanwhile, bids for February rose to 46.50 cents/lb from 44.00 cents/lb. Ethylene traded at 44.25-46.00 cents/lb on Monday.

The fire at Enterprise was forcing some crackers to run at reduced rates because of constraints on ethane supply, a market participant said.

LyondellBasell said it reduced rates at its nearby cracker in La Porte.

ExxonMobil said its giant Baytown chemical plant and refinery complex was still operational and meeting customer commitments.

“As a precaution, we have taken steps necessary to ensure our facilities remain isolated from the incident,” said ExxonMobil spokesman Kevin Allexon.

Chevron Phillips, which operates an olefins facility in nearby Cedar Bayou, and a polyolefins facility in Pasadena, Texas, would offer no comments regarding any potential impact of the Mont Belvieu blast.

Shell said the fire had no impact on its downstream operations or those of Motiva, but was still assessing the situation.

A former Enterprise employee at the Mont Belvieu facility said the main area in which the fire is located has no above-ground storage, only pipelines.

The former employee said the pipelines were not built to withstand a large explosion.

The former employee added that if the pipes are burning, the fire should burn out in short time.

The gushing appearance of the fire could indicate a pipeline leak, the former employee said, resulting from the release of high pressure of propane, butane or ethane.

However, the former employee also cautioned that the blast could be from a wellhead, which could take days or weeks to burn out.

Enterprise's complex in Mont Belvieu is among the world's largest underground storage centres for natural gas liquids (NGLs). Crackers in the US rely on ethane as feedstock for ethylene.

The Enterprise facilities provide storage services for mixed natural gas liquids, ethane, propane, butanes, natural gasoline and olefins, the company said.

Enterprise Products also operates an NGL fractionation plant in Mont Belvieu. Overall, the NGL fractionation plant has a total capacity of 305,000 bbl/day, the company said on its website.

Market sources said NGL prices were offered higher following the fire, but few trades were likely to be completed until more information is released.

Mont Belvieu is located about 30 miles (48 km) east of Houston.

(Additional reporting by Sheena Martin, Al Greenwood, Brian Ford and William Lemos)

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By: Ben DuBose
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