UPDATED — No injuries were reported in a March 30 fire at an ExxonMobil Chemical propylene unit in Beaumont, Texas — but the incident could affect the polypropylene resin market by limiting propylene supplies.
The incident remains under investigation. Spokesman Lee Dula told a local newspaper that early signs indicate that a valve on a line in a storage area experienced a mechanical failure, ultimately resulting in a fire.
He added that the fire started when vapor released from a propylene line ignited. The plant is offline, with no date set for a restart.
The outage could tighten North American propylene supplies, which in turn could tighten PP availability and create the potential for higher prices. Regional PP prices tumbled a total of 20 cents per pound in December-January as the price of oil fell. Prices ticked up 1 cent in February before falling 1 cent in March.
In an April 1 email, ExxonMobil spokeswoman Margaret Ross said that the restart process is underway at the propylene unit, with some equipment already back online.
“For impacted units, damage assessments are in progress and initial repairs have begun,” she added. “As a matter of practice we do not speculate on the timing of repairs. A detailed investigation into the cause of the incident is underway.”