Motiva restarts expansion segment of huge Port Arthur refinery in Texas

By ALISON SIDER

Motiva Enterprises has successfully restarted the expansion segment of its Port Arthur, Texas, refinery after months of setbacks and false starts, a spokeswoman for the company said.

Kimberly Windon, a spokeswoman for Royal Dutch Shell, said the refinery's new crude distillation unit, VPS 5, was safely restarted over the weekend and will ramp up to full production early this year.

Motiva is a joint venture between Shell and Saudi Aramco. The companies spent $10 billion to expand the Port Arthur refinery to 600,000 bpd, making it the largest refinery in the US.

A person familiar with the refinery's operations said Tuesday that the expansion segment will run at 200,000 to 225,000 bpd for about three to four weeks before ramping up to its full capacity of 325,000 bbl.

But the new crude unit has experienced several problems since it first debuted last spring. The unit underwent six months of repairs when caustic -- a chemical that neutralizes the acid in heavy, sour crudes but can also corrode steel -- leaked into the unit and caused extensive corrosion throughout its pipes.

The crude distillation unit is the first step in the oil refining process, separating oil into different cuts that form the basis of different fuels.

The process of restarting the unit began late last year, but was further delayed by the discovery of new pipe leaks and a small fire.


Dow Jones Newswires

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