US east coast refineries make critical decisions ahead of hurricane

26 August 2011 22:25  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--US east coast refiners are deciding between putting their facilities on standby mode, shutting them down or maintaining production ahead of Hurricane Irene, a refined-products trader said on Friday.

It takes hours to several days for a refinery to be properly shut down or put on standby, the trader said. Under standby mode, feedstock would re-circulate through the units without producing product. It is easier to restart a refinery that is in standby mode than one that has been shut down.

Hurricane Irene is expected to hit the coast of North Carolina early on Saturday, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

“The forecasts we have seen are very problematic,” said the trader, who has 30 years of US Gulf and east coast experience. “I’d think [refiners] would be seriously considering at least going on standby. This is a very dangerous storm, and extremely large.”

United Steelworkers spokeswoman Lynne Baker said the refinery union operators she spoke with were generally happy with the way the refiners were preparing for the storm.

PBF Energy spokesman Michael Gayda said the company’s refineries have their emergency preparation plans in place. The storm’s intensity and potential impact to the refinery was being monitored.

PBF operates two refineries on the east coast.

“The whole point of this plan is to do all we can to ensure the safety of our employees and their families, minimising outages, economic loss and the environmental impact of the communities we operate in,” Gayda said.

Baker said she spoke with a union worker at PBF Energy’s 182,200 bbl/day Delaware City refinery in Delaware, who reported the refinery reduced rates for an easier potential shutdown, and have brought in additional staff for Saturday. Equipment has been secured or shut down.

PBF Energy also operates a 160,000 bbl/day Paulsboro refinery in New Jersey.

According to the NOAA, Irene will be a Category 2 storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale with 11-13 foot (3.4-4.0 metre) storm surges when it hits Delaware and New Jersey.

ConocoPhillips operates its 238,000 bbl/day Linden refinery in New Jersey and its 185,000 bbl/day Trainer refinery in Pennsylvania. The company did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

Baker said a union worker at the Linden refinery told her the facility was running at reduced rates and was expected to go on standby. Additional maintenance personnel were being brought in for Saturday, and water pumps were in place. In addition, Texas refinery workers were helping with the situation.

Sunoco spokesman Thomas Golembeski said the storm was continuing to be monitored, and a hurricane preparedness plan was being implemented.

Sunoco’s Pennsylvania operations include its 178,000 bbl/day Marcus Hook refinery and its 335,000 bbl/day Philadelphia facility.

Chevron has its 80,000 bbl/day Perth Amboy refinery in New Jersey. The company did not immediately respond for comment.

By: Sheena Martin
+1 713 525 2653

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