Questions Smolder at JX Nippon Plant


Japanese petroleum giant JX Nippon Oil and Energy Corporation continues to look to get back at full capacity after a devastating Aug. 6 fire that knocked out the number two vacuum distillation unit at its Mizushima A refinery in Okayama prefecture.

Initially, there was concern fire might affect the refinerys ability to produce base oil used in finished lubricants due to the damage caused to the vacuum distillation unit. During the fire, the vacuum distillation unit – which makes basic feedstock for lubricant oil – was exposed to burning oil at a high temperature, and there appears to be some damage to the piping.

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It has been a challenging summer for the Mizushima factory which closed its B refinery in July due to failed safety checks and poor record keeping. The two refineries have the capacity to produce more than 340,000 barrels per day. The Mizushima B refinery, which produces 75 percent of the output from the factory, is not slated to reopen for at least eight weeks.

The extent of the damage is still uncertain. JX officials responded that they have no new information available on the impact of the fire and insisted that there will be an official statement released following the investigation which will detail the effect on production.

The cause of the fire, which raged on for nearly eight hours, is still under investigation, according to JX officials.

JX Nippon Oil has two refineries in Mizushima, with a base oil plant at each site. The fire occurred at the refinery that has a base oil plant with a capacity of 3,500 barrels per day of API Group I. The companys other refinery in Mizushima has a base oil plant with 4,000 b/d of Group I and 400 b/d of Group III capacity.

There was also a fire at the Mizushima factory last summer that resulted in a three-month delay before JX could return to full capacity. Despite this, JX officials have indicated that there has been no adverse effect on the refinerys crude distillation unit.

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