The Urethane Blog

Huntsman PO Unit Down Indefinitely

TPC fire idles Huntsman PO/MTBE unit

Huntsman said today its propylene oxide (PO)/methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) unit in Port Neches, Texas, will remain idled indefinitely following last week’s fire at TPC Group’s neighboring complex.

Fires burning at TPC’s Port Neches plant are ongoing but controlled following a blast at a butadiene unit 27 November. A distillation tower at the site collapsed due to the ongoing event at 12:30am ET yesterday.

The TPC site includes a 425,000 t/yr butadiene unit that accounts for 17pc of US capacity. The idled Huntsman unit can produce up to 779,000 t/y of MTBE.

While the PO/MTBE unit was not damaged by the blast, Huntsman stores MTBE at the TPC site and “certain dependencies” within that adjacent complex were damaged by the fire, the company said.

“While we await access to the adjacent site and further evaluate alternatives to safely bring this unit fully back on line, the expected duration of downtime and economic impact is unknown,” Huntsman said.

Except for the PO/MTBE unit, all other site operations at Huntsman’s Port Neches complex are back at pre-incident production levels.

Synthetic rubber producer Lion Elastomers is restarting the finishing portion of operations at its site next to the TPC plant on a limited basis before restarting its polymerization area. Lion’s Port Neches plant can produce up to 180,000 t/y of emulsion styrene-butadiene rubber. Its nearby plant in Orange, Texas, can produce up to 105,000 t/y of polybutadiene rubber and 25,000 t/y of solution styrene butadiene rubber. In August, Lion completed its acquisition of the Orange site from Firestone Polymers.

“We continue to work through logistical complications developed by the TPC fire on a priority basis,” Lion said.

Waterborne traffic on the nearby Sabine Pass, which is near two methanol plants and an LPG export facility, has resumed after being halted immediately following the blast last week.

TPC’s Insurance claims representatives are canvassing the neighborhoods today, as the blast damaged several homes and scattered debris. Jefferson County officials on 29 November lifted an evacuation order for residents in a 4-mile radius of the site.

By Steven McGinn and Amy Strahan