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Texas, Midwest refiners thaw out their plants after polar vortex

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Texas, Midwest refiners thaw out their plants after polar vortex

亮点

US refining capacity estimated to be down almost 7.6 million b/d

About 5.4 million b/d of Gulf Coast capacity down for the week ended Feb. 26

New York — US refiners are restarting their plants after the recent deep freeze stretching from the Texas Gulf Coast north through the Midwest impacted refinery operations across a broad swath of the country.

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The majority of the plants along Texas's refinery row are in the process of restarting, with most expected back online by mid-March, according to company statements and filings made with state regulatory agencies detailing emissions events, which go along with plant restarts.

While Texas refiners took main units down at the request of Governor Abbott to conserve scarce electricity so that people could heat their homes, some refiners – like ExxonMobil and Shell – even supplied energy to the grid from their cogeneration plants that normally would have powered their refineries.

S&P Global Platts estimates that about 5.4 million b/d of US Gulf Coast crude capacity was down for the week ended Feb. 26, out of the region's 9.96 million b/d. Almost all of the outages were in Texas, which has 5.1 million b/d of crude processing capacity at its coastal refineries and 742,000 b/d of inland refining capacity, according to US Energy Information Administration data.

The magnitude of the outage in the US' largest refining center caused refined product prices to jump. USGC CBOB reached $1.86/gal on Feb. 25, the highest since July 2019, when Hurricane Barry battered the region, according to Platts assessments.

USGC ULSD prices also gained, reaching $1.90/gal on Feb. 25, the highest since early 2020, when cold weather hit a pre-coronavirus world.

Despite the severe cold, some refiners saw a silver lining in the massive refinery outages.

"Recent industry downtime resulting from cold weather along the Gulf Coast should create improving inventories and margins for the Gulf Coast region," said Ezra Uzi Yemin, CEO of Delek US on Feb. 24.

Texas refiners thaw out frozen plants

Estimated

Company

Refinery

Capacity (b/d)

Restart

Completion

Partial impact

Marathon

El Paso

131,000

NA

Phillips 66

Sweeny

265,000

NA

Valero

Texas City

225,000

NA

Valero

McKee

195,000

NA

In restart mode

Chevron

Pasadena, TX

112,229

2/28/2021

Citgo

Corpus Christi

167,500

3/4/2021

Delek US

Big Spring

73,000

3/15/2021

Delek US

Tyler

75,000

3/15/2021

ExxonMobil

Baytown

560,500

NA

LyondellBasell

Houston

263,776

NA

Marathon

Galveston Bay

585,000

3/7/2021

Flint Hills

Corpus Christi

338,500

3/4/2021

Motiva

Port Arthur

607,000

3/11/2021

Shell

Deer Park

318,000

2/25/2021

Total P.A.

Port Arthur

225,500

3/16/2021

Valero

Corpus Christi

290,000

2/28/2021

Valero

Houston

205,000

2/23/2021

Valero

Texas City

225,000

2/28/2021

Valero

Port Arthur

335,000

NA

Total

5,197,005

Sources: Companies, company filings

Midwest suffers from power issues

However, the deep freeze and power supply instability was not limited to Texas refineries, where frozen wind turbines and frozen natural gas field pipes limited electricity supply, according to grid operator Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

Several other states reported grid problems. Oklahoma plants also took a hit from the cold weather – albeit not as drastically as in Texas -- with several refineries reporting mostly minor malfunctions as plummeting temperatures put a strain on local power infrastructure.

The local grid, the Southwest Power Pool, also said the freezing weather put a strain on local power supply. The SPP lifted its energy emergency alert on Feb. 18, two days after it went into effect.

HollyFrontier said work was underway at its Tulsa, Oklahoma, plant when the freeze hit and the cold weather "will just extend the down time," said Tim Go, HollyFrontier's chief operating officer, on Feb. 24.

Go said some of its Midcontinent plants, like the 162,000 b/d El Dorado, Kansas, plant "had some individual unit outages" but expected all the plants operating normally by the "end of this week."

"Some capacity will remain down in the following weeks as repairs continue. Overall, US refining capacity is estimated to be down by almost 7.6 million b/d for the week ending Feb. 26, declining to 6.4 million b/d, including an offset for runs pickup outside the vortex-affected region," S&P Global Platts Analytics wrote in a recent research note.

With the weather warming and utilities as well as some refinery operations partly restored, Platts Analytics expects downtime to decline to about 4.5 million b/d for the week ending March 5.

Prices jump higher

With so much refining capacity offline in Texas, and some minor impact at Midwest refineries, regional refined product prices jumped sharply in both Midwest markets to pre-coronavirus levels.

Group 3 sub octane was assessed at $1.94/gal, while Group 3 ULSD prices reached $2.03/gal as traders said barrels of ULSD were being trucked into Texas to meet demand there.

Chicago refined products also reached three-year highs with ULSD pegged at $1.95/gal on Feb. 25, while CBOB was assessed at $1.84/gal despite the reopening of the Explorer Pipeline, a major USGC-to-Illinois supply route on Feb. 19.

Some refiners took advantage of the outages to push forward planned work at their plants. Delek US moved up work planned later in the quarter at its 83,000 b/d El Dorado, Arkansas, plant after the recent storm disrupted that state's power grid.

PBF Energy also moved up work on the reformer and cut runs at its 172,000 b/d Toledo, Ohio, refinery as cold weather impacted operations, according to market sources.

But CVR Energy said first quarter throughput at its two Midwest plants -- the 74,500 b/d Wynnewood, Oklahoma, plant and the 132,000 b/d Coffeyville, Kansas, plant -- would range between 185,000 b/d and 190,000 b/d due to the polar vortex.

"We anticipate resuming normal operations at both facilities by the end of the month," said Tracy Jackson, CVR's chief financial officer on Feb. 23.

Midwest refiners move up planned work after freeze

Arkansas

Capacity (b/d)

Impact

Began

Ended

Delek US

El Dorado

83,000

Planned work moved up

2/15/2021

4/1/2021

Illinois

WRB

Wood River

356,000

Two units tripped

2/7/2021

NA

Kansas

CVR

Coffeyville

132,000

Reduced rates; flaring from hydrocracker and FCCU

2/15/2021

2/28/2021

HollyFrontier

El Dorado

162,000

Restarting after unit outages

2/15/2021

2/26/2021

Kentucky

Marathon

Catlettsburg

291,000

Power grid instability

2/15/2021

NA

New Mexico

HollyFrontier

Artesia

110,000

benzene leak from frozen line

2/18/2021

NA

Ohio

PBF

Toledo

182,200

reformer work, crude run cut

2/18/2021

3/18/2021

Oklahoma

CVR

Wynnewood

74,500

Reduced rates

2/15/2021

2/28/2021

HollyFrontier

Tulsa East

70,300

Restarting

2/9/2021

2/26/2021

HollyFrontier

Tulsa West

85,000

Restarting

2/15/2021

2/26/2021

Phillips 66

Ponca City

207,000

flaring from coker, alkylation unit, reformer

2/15/2021

NA

benzene leak

2/19/2021

NA

Tennessee

Valero

Memphis

180,000

Vapor line rupture

2/21/2021

NA