Fire shutters ethylene output at Shell’s Netherlands plant

Royal Dutch Shell PLC subsidiary Shell Nederland Chemie BV has shuttered the steam cracker at its Moerdijk petrochemicals complex in the Netherlands following a Nov. 11 fire at one of the plant’s compressors.

Plant operations were halted immediately following the fire’s outbreak, and production at the 900,000-tonne/year ethylene cracker remains suspended, Shell said in its latest update on the incident.

A leak in a lubricating oil system at the compressor has been identified as the cause of the fire, according to the company.

While Shell advised local communities to expect flaring from the plant in the coming days as a result of the upset, the company offered no details regarding a possible timeframe for unit’s restart.

In addition to ethylene, the steam cracker at Moerdijk produces 500,000 tpy of propylene.

Shell did not comment on the incident’s impact, if any, to other production units at the complex, which alongside the steam cracker, hosts the following plant capacities:

· Benzene extraction, 500,000 tpy.

· Butadiene extraction, 115,000 tpy.

· Butadiene hydrogenation, 105,000 tpy.

· Ethyl benzene, 640,000 tpy.

· Ethylene glycols, 155,000 tpy.

· Ethylene oxide, 305,000 tpy.

· Pygas hydrogenation, 750,000 tpy.

· Styrene monomer-propylene oxide (MSPO-1), which produces 450,000 tpy of styrene monomer and 210,000-tpy of propylene oxide.

· MSPO-2, a joint venture between Shell (50%) and BASF SE (50%) that produces 550,000 tpy of styrene monomer and 250,000 tpy of propylene oxide.

As of Nov. 16, Shell had yet to declare force majeure on any product supplies from the Netherlands manufacturing site.

Shell previously experienced production shortfalls for ethylene at Moerdijk after a June 2014 explosion at the complex’s MSPO-2 installation (OGJ Online, Jan. 16, 2015; June 5, 2014).

The Moerdijk complex receives the bulk of its feedstock for production of base chemicals via pipeline delivery from Shell Nederland Raffinaderij BV’s Pernis refinery in Rotterdam.

Contact Robert Brelsford at

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