ExxonMobil is still mum on the cause and effect of a massive fire last week at its large refinery and chemical facility in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but base oil operations do not appear to have been hindered.
Multiple sources reported that the Feb. 11 fire forced ExxonMobil to shut down three crude distillation units and a gasoline-producing fluid catalytic cracking unit. A company spokesperson, Jeremy Eikenberry, refused to say if the base oil plant was affected. The Baton Rouge plant has capacity to make 16,000 barrels per day of API Group I oils, the largest Group I source in North America.
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“ExxonMobil is notoriously quiet about everything. I have heard it was one of the crude units …,” one source told Lube Report. “That means less crude will be run and less vacuum gas oil if true. However, the Baton Rouge plant is 510,000 barrels per day, so even if there is less VGO, there should be more than enough VGO available from the existing crude towers.” The company said contractual obligations will be met.
A Louisiana State Police report states an unknown amount of toxic chemicals benzene and 1,3 butadiene were released into the air. ExxonMobil officials believe other chemicals were released, including unspecified “flammable vapors,” crude oil and hydrogen sulfide, according to that report, which was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Greg Langley, a spokesperson for the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, said a more detailed report will be forthcoming. Under Louisiana regulations, ExxonMobil must provide a “seven-day” report to state regulators. This report details the root cause, including where the fire started and calculations of air pollutants released. As of 1 p.m. Tuesday a copy wasn’t available from the state. “They can ask for an extension,” Langley said.
The blaze started around 11 p.m. local time and was extinguished several hours later. The report states that ExxonMobil contacted police at 11:58, two minutes shy of the one-hour deadline to contact police during emergency situations.