Exxon Cuts Baytown Refinery Rates After Extinguishing Fire

By Barbara Powell and Francesca Maglione | December 27, 2021

Exxon Mobil Corp. says an overnight fire at its Baytown, Texas, refinery that injured four people has been extinguished.

The blaze occurred at 1 a.m. local time at the plant, which is the fourth-largest in the U.S., capable of processing more than half a million barrels of oil a day. Gasoline trading in New York jumped as much as 4 cents per gallon on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The fire at units involved in gasoline production comes as U.S. stockpiles of the fuel hit their lowest for this time of year since 2015. Gasoline futures, meanwhile, are at their highest seasonally in eight years. Prices rose 1.8% to settle at $2.2061 per gallon in New York.

The blaze broke out in a unit called a reformer feed hydrotreater, according to Wood Mackenzie’s Genscape unit. Other units impacted include a toluene benzene unit and a nearby cooling tower, according to a person familiar with operations.

Reformer feed hydrotreaters remove sulfur from partially refined oil to help the finished gasoline meet clean-air rules. The units process feedstock used by reformers to make high-octane gasoline. The toluene unit extracts aromatics from feed sent to it by the reformer. If the fire impact is prolonged, it could affect prices of premium gasoline.

Exxon spokeswoman Julie King said Baytown is adjusting rates at other Baytown facilities to focus on stabilizing the affected units, but did not discuss the impact on fuel production.

The injured workers are in stable condition after being transferred to a local hospital, said Casey Cook, a public information officer at the Baytown Fire Department.

A Baytown woman who allegedly suffered injuries during the refinery explosion near her home has filed a lawsuit against Exxon, Potts Law Firm said Friday in a statement. The lawsuit, filed in Harris County, alleges that Tona Credit suffered hearing loss and related balance issues resulting from the concussive force of the blast at the gasoline-producing refinery unit.

It’s the second such blaze at Baytown in the last two years. In 2019 a fire on the plastic-producing side of the industrial complex injured about 37 people.

Air quality monitoring at the site and fence line has shown no adverse impact so far, King said.

Exxon on Wednesday reported a leak at one of Baytown’s sulfur-removal units, according to a filing with a state regulator. The leak was discovered at around 10 p.m. Tuesday, according to the filing.

–With assistance from Rachel Graham and Bill Lehane.

About the photo: The Baytown Exxon gas refinery in Texas is shown.

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