Chevron: Production down after fire, but customers’ demands being met

Published 4:42 pm Friday, August 31, 2007

Chevron’s largest U.S. refinery is processing less crude oil than normal since a fire two weeks ago, but company officials say they are still meeting their customers’ demands.

The oil fire started Aug. 16 in a processing unit near the center of the Pascagoula plant, causing the evacuation of nonessential workers, according to company officials. The blaze sent a large plume of black smoke into the sky, but the fire was contained and extinguished within hours.

“Chevron is running less crude at the refinery due to the damage sustained to the No. 2 crude unit and working closely with its crude suppliers and expect some crude shipments may be canceled or rerouted to other refineries in the company’s global network,” Chevron spokesman Steve Renfroe said in a statement.

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“While the refinery is currently operating at reduced capacity, Chevron has covered its supply requirements and fully anticipates meeting all of its customer product commitments.”

The plant is one of the top 10 petroleum refineries in the United States, processing about 330,000 barrels a day. Daily production under normal conditions is about 5.5 million gallons of gasoline, jet fuel and diesel, according to the company’s Web site.

Oil and gas prices have risen this week over concerns about lower production at the Pascagoula plant and another refinery in Texas. Chevron officials have declined to discuss in detail any crude oil orders that may have been canceled.

Renfroe would not say how much production has been off since the fire or how long it will take to bring the facility back to normal.

“The refinery is implementing plans to repair the fire damage, which was largely isolated to its No. 2 crude unit,” Renfroe said. “At this point, it would be inappropriate to speculate about the extent of repairs or how long particular units will remain offline.”

Chevron officials said there were no injuries caused by the fire. However, Jackson County government spokesman Ken Flanagan said Wednesday that an area hospital reported two minor injuries to Chevron subcontractors — one suffered a fractured or broken leg running from the plant and another suffered from heat exhaustion.

A cause of the fire has not been released.

“Chevron is conducting a thorough investigation of the cause of the fire in coordination with the appropriate local, state and federal agencies,” Renfroe said.

Robbie Wilbur, a spokesman for Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, said Wednesday that the agency is working with Chevron to the determine the cause of the fire, but no report has been released.

Air quality tests immediately after the fire showed there was no danger to the community, Wilbur said.

The plant employs 1,350 people and has been operating in Pascagoula since 1963.

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