Largest Oil Refinery in US Temporarily Shuts Down over Cold Weather

Posted on 02/15/2021

A rare winter storm knocked out nearly half the wind-power generating capacity of Texas and pushed temperatures in southeast Texas down into the teens, according to reports. These ice storms locked up wind turbine towers, driving driving electricity demand to record levels, the state’s grid operator Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) reported. Wind generation ranks as the second largest source of energy in Texas, accounting for 23% of state power supplies in 2020, behind natural gas, which represented 45%, according to ERCOT figures. The Weather Channel tweeted, “At least 2.5 million customers without power across Texas this morning. #Uri For context, historic Hurricane #Harvey resulted in 393,000 outages.”

ERCOT issued an alert asking consumers and businesses to conserve power, citing record-breaking energy demands due to extreme cold impacting Texas. The cold front is also creating blackouts in Northern Mexico, impacting 4.7 million users.

Texas state officials warned that people may die of hypothermia and carbon monoxide poisoning from improper use of generators. For example, Houston’s Intercontinental Airport dipped to 17 degrees early Monday, the coldest reading observed there since December 23, 1989.

Image Credit: NWS Weather Prediction Center. Part of image was cropped for viewing.


Marathon Petroleum’s Galveston Bay refinery is in Texas City, Texas, on Galveston Bay, off the entrance to the Houston Ship Channel. In 2018, Galveston Bay merged with MPC’s former Texas City refinery into a single refining complex with a crude oil refining capacity of 585,000 barrels per calendar day (bpcd).

The 585,000 barrel-per-day refinery is closing down due to cold weather. The facility was officially shut on Sunday night and Monday morning as temperatures plunged caused by an Arctic cold front. Marathon plans to begin restarting units shut by the severe cold weather in the next few days as temperatures rise.

The Galveston Bay refinery can process a wide variety of crude oils into gasoline, distillates, aromatics, heavy fuel oil, dry gas, fuel-grade coke, refinery-grade propylene, chemical-grade propylene, and sulfur. Products are distributed via pipeline, barge, transport truck, rail and ocean tanker. The refinery has access to the export market and multiple options to sell refined products. Furthermore, there is an on-site co-generation facility currently has 1,055 megawatts of electrical production capacity and can produce 4.3 million pounds of steam per hour. Approximately 45 percent of the power generated in 2018 was used at the refinery, with the remaining electricity being sold into the electricity grid.

Largest U.S. Oil Refinery

The Motiva refinery, which is fully owned by Saudi Aramco (managed by Motiva Enterprises LLC), is an oil refinery located in Port Arthur, Texas. It is the largest oil refinery in North America. This refinery is shutting down because of Arctic weather conditions that have disrupted power, water and fuel supplies across Texas.


Oncor Electric Delivery Company tweeted on February 15, 2021 at 7:08 AM PST, “EMERGENCY UPDATE: Due to the severity of the electric generation shortfall, our expected outage length of 15 to 45 minutes has been significantly extended. Outages due to this electric emergency could last for hours & we ask you to be prepared. (1/3)”

With origins from TXU, Oncor Texas’s largest transmission and distribution electric utility, the 5th largest in the US, serving more than 10 million Texans in 420 cities and 120 counties in the state. On March 8, 2018, Sempra Energy acquired a majority stake in Oncor for US$ 9.45 billion.


The economic toll on agriculture could be staggering. Meteorologists in the insurance industry expecting this event, which should go through the end of the week, to end with a billion-dollar cost for Texas.

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