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Nation’s Second Largest Refinery Restarting in the wake of Hurricane Harvey

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After six days of inactivity, ExxonMobil Corp’s Baytown, Texas refinery is coming back to life. With an average production of almost 561,000 barrels per day, the nation’s second largest refinery began the process of returning to normal production on Friday.

Initial inspection of the refinery revealed that it took no significant damage from the hurricane that forced so many Texas refineries and offshore rigs to shut down last week. Charlotte Huffaker, a spokeswoman for Exxon stated “We are making good progress on restart[ing] activities. Timing on when operations can resume to normal will largely depend on the availability of transportation infrastructure.”

Gasoline prices have already begun falling in response after experiencing an average 25% rise over the weekend. In addition to Exxon, Phillips 66 is hard at work restoring its 247,000 barrel per day refinery to normal working conditions.

Oil pipelines are also easing shortages, Magellan Midstream Partners is resuming operations on both its Longhorn crude oil and BridgeTex pipelines which transport roughly 675,000 barrels per day of Texas crude to east Houston.

Still, even with refineries and pipelines returning to business as usual the gas prices are likely to be stymied by the damage done to Texas infrastructure. Flooded roads and property damage caused some gas stations in the Houston area to run out of fuel entirely last week. Motiva Enterprises warned customers that fuel shortages are likely according to a source who works with gas station chains in the Dallas area.

Additionally, most Texas ports are still closed to large vessels which seriously hinders the ability to import crude oil on the scale many refineries are designed function at. The Port of Corpus Christi only recently partially opened and doesn’t expect to resume at normal capacity until next week.

Huffaker added “We are working with the Port of Houston to expedite vessels through the Houston Ship Channel and we are coordinating with railroads to help facilitate necessary repairs.”

Meanwhile rigs and refineries near the east coast are preparing for the possibility of disruption from Hurricane Irma, whose picking up strength in the Atlantic ocean. Currently it’s exact path remains unclear.

Article written by HEI contributor Kevin Abbott.

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