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Problems at Motiva plant

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Petrodollars: A lot of smart oil people caught up in problems at a Motiva plant

By News Desk: September 16, 2013

A big expansion project at the Port Arthur, Texas refinery owned by Motiva–the Shell-Saudi joint venture–has been far from the success story envisioned by the two partners. In this week’s Oilgram News column Petrodollars, Janet McGurty looks at the problems there.

Motiva’s Port Arthur refinery expansion woes have people wondering how it could all go so wrong for a group of companies with so much expertise.


The refinery, which was expanded from 325,000 b/d to 600,000 b/d, is owned by Shell and Saudi Aramco.


The expansion work was done by a joint venture of Bechtel Corp. and Jacobs Engineering. All four companies are experts in the refinery arena.


“It’s hard to believe that Shell and the Saudis/Bechtel got it wrong, and even then it should be fixable,” said Carl Holland, an independent energy trader who worked at the refinery when it was owned by Texaco.


The expanded Port Arthur refinery opened to great fanfare on May 31, 2012—two years later than originally planned and, at $10 billion, double the initial price—with dignitaries from all four companies turning the valve to start its operation.

Then, merely a month later, the brand new crude distillation unit had to be shut down…


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