Thursday, June 28, 2012

Big Problem at Aramco/Shell Motiva Refinery So Saudi's Stop Sending Crude

Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Two from Reuters:
June 22
Motiva prepares Texas refinery for long shutdown
Motiva Enterprises LLC moved to prepare half its giant Port Arthur, Texas, refinery for an extended shut-down this week after a major glitch with a new unit, closing down other units and reducing oil shipments from Saudi Arabia.

In the first public acknowledgment of the severity of the problem at the plant, Motiva co-owner Royal Dutch Shell Plc said late on Wednesday that the stricken 325,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) unit was shut due to "corrosion problems," as originally reported earlier this week by Reuters.

On Thursday, an industry source said Saudi Arabia halted crude shipments to the new unit until at least mid-July. State oil firm Saudi Aramco, the other co-owner of the plant, had ramped up supplies to the plant this year to feed the new unit, the cornerstone of its five-year, $10 billion expansion.

Aramco would evaluate restarting shipments after that depending on the status of the refinery.
"The outage of the new crude unit may continue for several months, while the causes of the issue are established and rectified," Shell said in a statement late on Wednesday.

Sources said the new crude distillation unit, which began production in April and was shut following a June 9 fire, may be idle for up to a year to repair extensive corrosion found in the unit -- up from initial estimates of two to five months.

Shell said all secondary units built as part of the five-year, $10 billion project were fully operational, although some were running at reduced throughput....MORE
June 25
INSIGHT-In hours, caustic vapors wreaked quiet ruin on biggest US refinery
In the end, all it took was a small chemical spill -- perhaps less than a barrelful -- to bring down the newest, mightiest oil refinery in the United States.

Three weeks ago, while workers repaired a minor leak at the Port Arthur, Texas plant owned by Motiva Enterprises, a few gallons a day of so-called "caustic" was inadvertently seeping into the newly built crude distillation unit (CDU), the 30-story-high network of interconnected cylinders and latticed pipelines at the heart of the refining process.

While harmless when mixed with crude, the undiluted caustic vaporized into an invisible but devastating agent of corrosion as the chamber heated up to 700 degrees Fahrenheit ( 370 Celsius); t he chemical gas raced through key units, fouled huge heaters and corroded thousands of feet of stainless steel pipe.

Now, just weeks after they commissioned the biggest U.S. refinery project in a decade, two of the world's biggest oil titans -- Royal Dutch Shell and Saudi Aramco , which own Motiva -- are rushing to repair the potentially billion-dollar glitch that has added an embarrassing and costly coda to a landmark $10 billion expansion.

After a five-year effort to double the plant's capacity, making it the largest in the country, they must now reassemble many of the same people and parts for a blitzkrieg fix that may exceed the original $300 million cost of the unit: corrosion experts are flying in from across the world; hundreds of workers are being hired; bespoke 30-inch (75-c m) stain less steel pipelines and 30-story cranes may need to be obtained quickly, according to sources involved in the repairs.

Sources familiar with the effort provided Reuters with the most detailed account yet of what officials believe went wrong at the 325,000-barrels-per-day (bpd) unit known as vacuum pipestill-5 (VPS-5), showing how a series of seemingly minor glitches crippled the vast plant.

Motiva has said little about the incident. Late on W ednesday, 11 days after it occurred, the company confirmed for the first time that the unit might remain shut for "several months". Sources say officials are telling workers that the unit could be idle for as long as a year.

On Friday, in response to Reuters questions, Motiva spokeswoman Kayla Macke confirmed the contamination: "The preliminary inspection indicates that parts of the new unit have been contaminated with elevated levels of caustic."...MUCH MORE
April 11
Saudis Sending Seven Tankers to Begin Stockpiling Feedstock for Soon to Be Largest Refinery in the U.S., Motiva (RDS)