Total’s Texas plant shutdown helps project
HOUSTON, April 20 (Reuters) - Total (TOTF.PA) is using a multiweek economic shutdown of its 232,000-barrel per day (bpd) Port Arthur, Texas, refinery, to advance a $2.2-billion expansion project, sources familiar with plant operations said on Monday. The "Deep Conversion Project" will expand the French oil major's only U.S. refinery's ability to process cheaper high-sulfur crude oil and increase diesel production capacity. Hundreds of piping tie-ins are being made so units under construction will connect to existing units at the refinery near the Texas-Louisiana border. "They're tying in hundreds of pieces of pipe," one of the sources said. "They're going to get as much done as they can while it's shut. They're treating the shutdown like a major turnaround." Several companies have shut U.S. refineries while doing overhauls or maintenance work since the first of the year as the recession has crushed U.S. motor fuel demand. A company spokeswoman declined to discuss the project work underway while the refinery is shut. The refinery was shut on March 24. "The Deep Conversion Project is going very well," said Total's Pat Avery. "It's on time. We believe it will be on budget." The Port Arthur refinery project, which will add a 50,000 bpd coking unit, a vacuum distillation unit and sulfur recovery unit, is scheduled to finish by 2011.