ExMo Restarts PAO Plant


ExxonMobil Chemical restarted its Beaumont, Texas, polyalphaolefin plant the week of Dec. 7, good news for blenders of premium lubricants that were already coping with a tight PAO market before the plant shut down in preparation for Hurricane Ike in September.

The Beaumont PAO unit is now producing on-specification, low-viscosity and high-viscosity grades of PAO, ExxonMobil Chemical spokesman Jeff Neu told Lube Report yesterday.

U.S. producers of low-vis PAOs, which typically range up to 10 centiStoke in weight, include Chevron Phillips Chemical, ExxonMobil Chemical and Ineos Oligomers. Only two North American companies, ExxonMobil Chemical and Chemtura, have manufacturing capacity to produce the high-viscosity grades, such as 40 and 100 cSt. These often are used as “correction fluids” to balance lower molecular weight PAOs and achieve viscosity targets.

On Sept. 12, ExxonMobil Chemical shut down the 82,000 metric ton per year Beaumont plant, which represents more than a third of North American PAO capacity, before Hurricane Ike hit on Sept. 13. The facility then suffered flooding damage from the storm surge associated with the hurricane.

According to the company, other units at the Beaumont plant continue to be shut down due to that flooding damage. ExxonMobil is committed to reestablishing our supply capabilities for the portion of our olefins and aromatics business produced by our Beaumont, Texas facility, Neu said. Efforts to restore the other units at the plant are well under way, he added. A network of teams are working diligently to repair or replace damaged equipment. Restart planning is progressing to expedite a return to normal operations.

Due to the continued shutdown of the Beaumont PAO plant, ExxonMobil had instituted sales allocations effective Oct. 1 on a variety of Mobil 1 synthetic lubricants. ExxonMobil Chemical tapped other sources to give its Beaumont-supplied customers access to more low viscosity PAO base stocks. ExxonMobil Lubes and Specialties said it was then able to significantly increase the allocation percentage for some lubricants effective Dec. 1.

ExxonMobil Chemical also has a PAO plant in Gravenchon, France, with 60,000 mt/y of capacity.

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