Biggest U.S. Refinery May Stay Shut Until Weekend

By Dan Molinski Features Dow Jones Newswires

The biggest refinery in the U.S. may only be running at 40% of its operating capacity by the end of this weekend, according to the plant's owner, Motiva.

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The 600,000-barrel-a-day fuel-making factory in Port Arthur, Texas, had to shut down as Hurricane Harvey flooded the area. The company gave an update Tuesday that said it was in the initial restart phase, six days after taking the plant down due to massive flooding in the area.

"The refinery is in the final phases of equipment assessments and initial phases of refinery start up," said Motiva, which is owned by Saudi Arabia's state-run oil giant Saudi Aramco. "We expect the refinery to initially return to approximately 40% production by the end of this weekend, provided that the final assessments meet our operational standards."

The Port Arthur refinery, 90 miles east of Houston, is in an area that suffered 24 inches of rainfall in 24 hours. The company cited "local flood conditions" when it shut down this past Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Exxon Mobil Corp. said its 362,000-barrel-a-day refinery in Beaumont, Texas, was still closed because of extensive flooding in the lower levels of the plant. Exxon's big 560,000-barrel-a-day refinery in nearby Baytown, Texas, which is the second largest in the country, is in initial restart mode, the company said. But Exxon didn't say when it expected the Baytown plant to start making fuel again.

Most Texas refineries along the Gulf Coast, from Corpus Christi in South Texas to the border with Louisiana had to curtail operations due to the storm. That caused some supply shortages around the state and rising prices at the pump. The U.S. average retail gasoline price rose 24 cents in the past week to $2.64 a gallon.

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As of Tuesday, the big refineries in Corpus Christi that had to shut down as Harvey made landfall have largely come back online and are now making fuel again.

The Colonial pipeline, a major conduit for gasoline made in Texas to the East Coast, was also restarted Tuesday.

Write to Dan Molinski at dan.molinski@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

September 05, 2017 18:21 ET (22:21 GMT)