Houston petrochemical fire rages, Texas expands air monitoring

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Houston officials and environmental groups raced to expand air monitoring after a raging fire at a Mitsui & Co petrochemical storage site produced billowing acrid smoke that could be seen and smelled miles away, as per Hydrocarbonprocessing.

The blaze at Mitsui unit Intercontinental Terminals Co in Deer Park, Texas, burned for a third day after firefighting water pumps broke down for six hours on Monday evening and flames engulfed two more tanks, the company said. The fire began on Sunday when a leaking tank containing volatile naphtha, a fuel used in the production of gasoline, ignited and flames quickly spread to nearby tanks, ITC said.

Thick acrid smoke could be smelled miles away in Houston and was visible dozens of miles away. State and federal monitors said air quality was safe, but environmental groups disagreed and said they would conduct their own monitoring.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said there was an increase in soot and other contaminants at ground levels around the site but levels remained below those considered unhealthy. Monitoring by an Environmental Protection Agency aircraft also found “no significant detections," the EPA said.

But Neil Carmen, a director at the Texas chapter of the Sierra Club environmental group, said the airborne plume likely contained tens of thousands of milligrams of particles, well above levels considered safe. The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a nongovernmental organization, was deploying 10 air-quality monitors to check for nitrogen oxides and soot around Houston and adding another 10 monitors in the near future, said Matt Tresaugue, an EDF spokesman. He said the city had requested the EDF monitors.

The tanks hold flammable liquids that are difficult to extinguish using water and foam suppressants. Five of the 15 tanks continued to burn Tuesday, while two have collapsed and volatile liquids in three others burned out, ITC said. A local fire official said the blaze may have to burn itself out. Each tank holds 80,000 barrels, or up to 3.3 million gallons, of liquids that are used to boost gasoline octane, make solvents and plastics.

Gasoline prices on the Colonial pipeline, which sends fuel to the U.S. East Coast from Houston, were up on Tuesday between 1- and 2-cents a gallon over levels prior to the fire. "I can’t tell you how long it will take to burn out,” said Harris County Fire Marshal Laurie Christensen at a morning briefing. “I’m not going to give you a timetable."

Some of the water and chemicals have washed into the adjacent Houston Ship Channel that links the Gulf of Mexico to Houston, the nation’s busiest petrochemical port, ITC spokesman Dale Samuelsen said.

Pumps on two boats feeding water to firefighters malfunctioned for about six hours on Monday evening, he said. As a result, two more tanks caught fire. On Tuesday, ITC added a 15-person crew experienced in battling tank-farm fires as well as additional high-pressure pumps and suppressant foam.

"We have been up to this point in defensive mode” trying to contain the fire, said Samuelsen. “Because of the expertise these guys bring, the expectation is we’ll be able to go into offensive mode." Samuelsen said the burning tanks are within a six-foot tall earthen berm that is collecting water and chemicals. Firefighters are pumping 10,000 to 20,000 gallons of water and foam a minute onto the tanks.

McDermott announces successful startup of largest ever reactor in China

MOSCOW (MRC) -- McDermott International, Inc. has announced the successful commercialization and startup of its single largest CDAlky reactor to date at PetroChina's refinery in Jilin, China, as per Hydrocarbonprocessing.

The 350,000 metric ton per annum (9,000 barrels per day) plant is one of four CDAlky projects awarded to the company by PetroChina and had an unusually fast schedule from design to operation, with startup occurring just 17 months after initial design.

Lummus' CDAlky technology provides a safe, clean and economical route to low sulfur, high octane alkylate blendstock used to fuel smaller, lighter and high compression transportation engines. One of the key features of the CDAlky technology is its scalability. Competing processes would require multiple reactors to achieve the same capacity, adding complexity and plot space in comparison with CDAlky.

"Lummus technology's CDAlky is the most advanced alkylation process for the production of motor fuel alkylate," said Daniel M. McCarthy, Executive Vice President of McDermott's Lummus Technology business. "The CDAlky process provides a higher quality product with lower capital and operating expenditures, offering the best overall solution for the clean fuel production of alkylate."

McDermott's Lummus Technology is a leading licensor of proprietary petrochemicals, refining, gasification and gas processing technologies, and a supplier of proprietary catalysts and related engineering. With a heritage spanning more than 100 years, encompassing approximately 3,100 patents and patent applications, Lummus Technology provides one of the industry's most diversified technology portfolios to the hydrocarbon processing sector.

As MRC informed before, in December 2018, McDermott International, Inc. announced a contract award from Bayport Polymers LLC, a joint venture of Total Petrochemicals & Refining USA, Inc., and Novealis Holdings LLC (a joint venture of Borealis AG and NOVA Chemicals Inc.), for its new High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) plant, the Borstar Bay3 Project, in Bayport, Texas.

China refiners eye record crude use in Q3

MOSCOW (MRC) -- China's crude oil processing rate will likely hit another record in the third quarter this year, topping 13 million barrels per day (bpd) for the first time, as two new mega-refineries ramp up and others exit maintenance, a survey of 20 refiners showed, said Hydrocarbonprocessing.

Crude use in China, the world's biggest importer, rose 6.1 percent from a year earlier to a record 12.68 million bpd in the first two months of 2019, official data showed last week. But demand is first likely to dip in the second quarter, as more than half-a-dozen Chinese state-owned refineries go into maintenance or upgrading shutdowns during the period of typically low demand.

The eight planned overhauls are expected to remove close to 157,000 bpd of crude throughput on average if spread evenly across the course of the year, up from just over 124,000 bpd in 2018, Reuters calculations showed.

Crude runs will rebound by September, though, when the new refineries of Dalian-based Hengli Petrochemical Co Ltd and Zhoushan-based Zhejiang Petrochemical are both expected to be at full capacity, according to the survey.

The 400,000-bpd Hengli Petrochemicals refinery is poised to have all units operational and running at full capacity by end of March. A full trial operation of Zhejiang Petrochemicals Corp, also with 400,000 bpd capacity, is expected in the second quarter this year, according to a Reuters report. Adding so much capacity to China's already huge refining sector will likely weigh on profits for gasoline and diesel.

A manager at Sinopec's Maoming Petrochemical, one of the largest refineries in China, said the plant may have to cut down on transportation fuels in response. "There will definitely be competition," said Ma Yongsheng, president of Sinopec Corp, on the sidelines of China's annual parliament meeting in Beijing. "But we will be shifting more focus from refining to downstream chemicals," Ma said. Li Xiangping, who heads Chinese private refiner Dongming Petrochemicals, said his company was applying for approval to build an ethylene plant to avoid head-to-head competition with the two new refineries in the transport fuel market.

Another way to avoid China's domestic fuel glut is to export refined products. China's oil product exports hit a record in 2018, and are still going strong this year.

PetroChina's WEPEC shipped three gasoline cargoes to Mexico since the beginning of this year, a direct source with knowledge of the matter said, not specifying the amount shipped. "We are deep in the refined products glut, and in the second half it could be even worse.

There is so much pressure to sell middle distillates," an executive from the Dalian-based WEPEC refinery said, asking not to be named. In January, China National Petroleum Corp's think tank forecast that China will export at least 48.6 million tonnes (about 1.07 million bpd) of gasoline, diesel and kerosene this year to offset excesses in the domestic market.

Joint venture completes construction scope of work on Sasol Project

MOSCOW (MRC) -- TechnipFMC, in joint venture with Fluor, announced it has safely completed its engineering, procurement and construction management (EPCM) services on Sasol’s world-scale petrochemical complex in Westlake, Louisiana, reported Hydrocarbonprocessing.

As planned, TechnipFMC/Fluor resources will provide assistance to the Sasol team at the LCCP project site for the remaining activities, working with Sasol in parallel on the transition plans for each unit and workstream. TechnipFMC/Fluor will also assist in performance testing for LCCP.

The TechnipFMC and Fluor joint venture has provided EPCM services since the project FID in 2014. The complex features a 1.5-million-ton-per-year ethane cracker based on TechnipFMC’s proprietary ethylene technology which is the technology selected for more than 60% of all new ethylene crackers installed worldwide in the last decade. The Lake Charles Chemical’s Project (LCCP) complex also includes six downstream chemical units and associated utilities, infrastructure and offsites. Sasol announced the beneficial operation on the 470 ktpa polyethylene unit on February 13, which is one of the two polyethylene derivative units at LCCP.

In addition to the work at the complex, TechnipFMC and Fluor also invested in the local community, contributing more than USD185,000 to local schools and organizations throughout the course of the project.

Beginning in November 2018, TechnipFMC/Fluor commenced incremental transitions of assets to Sasol upon completion of each unit or system.

Nello Uccelletti, President of TechnipFMC’s Onshore/Offshore business, stated: "Reaching this achievement at the LCCP is the culmination of more than 4 years of work that was safely accomplished under our management. We are pleased with the project delivery and the successful handover to Sasol."

As MRC reported earlier, in July 2018, Honeywell announced that Secunda Synfuels Operations, an operating division of Sasol South Africa Ltd., will use a Honeywell Connected Plant service to monitor the operating reliability of its two Honeywell UOP CCR Platforming units at its refinery in Secunda, South Africa.

Evonik presents a new technology at the LOPEC trade Show

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Evonik is unveiling TAeTTOOz, a new material technology for printable batteries, at the LOPEC trade show, said the company.

TAeTTOOz has been developed on the basis of what are known as redox polymers by Creavis, the strategic innovation unit of Evonik.

The new materials can be processed by conventional printing methods into very thin, flexible battery cells, thus giving the developer a high degree of design freedom. They allow storage of electrical energy without the need for metals or metal compounds. Battery cells produced with the TAeTTOOz® technology do not require liquid electrolytes and therefore cannot leak. Creavis is now seeking development partners to integrate the TAeTTOOz® technology into new and existing applications.

Dr. Michael Korell, who is responsible at Evonik for the development of TAeTTOOz, said: "We have developed a technology with enormous potential. It enables us to offer a solution to power small electronic circuits with printed batteries efficiently, reliably, and in an ecofriendly way."

The TAeTTOOz technology opens up new possibilities particularly in the spreading networking of everyday objects, the Internet of Things. When ready for series production it can be used in many areas. Medical sensors for monitoring vital functions could be worn far more conveniently when printed batteries are used. In the area of logistics, intelligent sensors operated by printed batteries in packaging could monitor sensitive goods such as food or vaccines.