Tesoro's Kapolei refinery goes offline, but fuel supplies should be safe

Published: Aug. 3, 2011 at 9:28 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 4, 2011 at 1:59 AM HST
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Lance Tanaka
Lance Tanaka

By Ben Gutierrez - bio | email

KAPOLEI (HawaiiNewsNow) - One of Hawaii's two refineries isn't producing gas right now and will not be for days. But Tesoro said there is enough gas to go around until the facility can be brought back to full production on Friday.

The shutdown started shortly before 9 a.m. Tuesday when there was a power failure. While there is a backup system, it was down for maintenance. Because of that bad timing, the whole facility had to be shut down in an emergency mode.

Part of that emergency included burning off what was already in the system, resulting in black smoke being released from the refinery.

"When we're doing a shutdown such as what occurred yesterday, we're taking the excess product that's in the line, plus any of the vapors, and we're routing it to the flare to burn it off," said Tesoro spokesman Lance Tanaka. "We want to stabilize the units."

By Wednesday afternoon, there were only sporadic flames coming from the flare valve at the plant.

Tesoro and Chevron are the only two oil refineries in the state. Tesoro's facility can process up to 94,000 barrels of oil a day.

The governor's office was notified of the shutdown. Even so, the company insisted that there's no reason to worry about fuel supplies.

"This is a 'just in time' production operation, and we make fuel, basically, to match demand," Tanaka said. "So we really don't have a lot of spare excess, but we do have quite a few days of inventory on hand."

Longtime Kahala Shell owner Bill Green said what happened at Tesoro will affect the company, and probably no one else.

"There's absolutely not a problem," Green said. "They're going to be out of business two, three, four days, maybe less. And there's plenty of gas in the pipeline."

According to Green, oil companies have many contingency plans to have enough gas supplies in cases like these. And he said two refineries is still better than one.

"if you really got into a disaster, then they could offset," he said. "One could make more, or whatever that might be."

Tesoro also produces jet fuel and diesel, and also is the state's only producer of asphalt. Tanaka said none of those supplies should be affected while the refinery is restarted, a process which takes some time.

"It's not where you turn on a light switch and you bring everything back in production," Tanaka said. "There are a lot of procedures you have to follow in order to safely bring back the units back gradually. And I think the public would want us to be able to assure that as we're bringing units back on and introducing feed gradually, that we're making sure that something else doesn't break."

Meantime, the company is investigating to determine what happened, and to try to prevent a similar occurrence in the future.

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