TEXAS: Oil giant needs additional time to meet output target at Texas City plant. BP

BP fell short of its goal of restoring most production to its partly closed Texas City oil refinery by the end of 2007.

The London-based oil giant had planned to have the plant running at 400,000 barrels per day by now but will need another four to six weeks to repair and restart a sour crude processing unit, said BP spokesman Ronnie Chappell.

The sour crude unit is the last of four major units that were targeted for repairs after the plant took a double hit in 2005 — the explosion in March that killed 15 workers and Hurricane Rita in September. The other three units have been repaired and returned to operation, Chappell said.

"We have been careful and painstaking in our approach to repairing these units, and safety is our top priority, not schedule," Chappell said.

BP's Texas City plant, the nation's third-largest refinery, was completely shut down in preparation for Hurricane Rita in September 2005, and has been running at half production since last year.

The refinery will not be ready to run at its maximum capacity of 460,000 barrels per day until later in 2008, Chappell said.

The lost production from the Texas City plant has cut into BP's profitability, and put pressure on an already-strained U.S. refining network.

"The market has kind of learned to live without them, but it would be a lot better if we had them producing at full capacity," said Peter Beutel, industry analyst with Cameron Hanover, an energy risk management firm in New Canaan, Conn.

BP is spending more than $1 billion for upgrades and repairs at its Texas City refinery.

In addition, the company continues to deal with the fallout from the 2005 blast.

Dealing with settlements
BP has settled more than half of about 4,000 civil claims, including all involving deaths. Hundreds of lawsuits are still pending.

BP's North American products division has agreed to plead guilty to a felony federal environmental crime, pay a $50 million fine and serve three years on probation.

Via: Houston Chronicle|By BRETT CLANTON

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