Ecopetrol Takes Polyethylene Units Offline After Refinery Incident

(S&P Global Platts, 27.Feb.2019) — Colombia’s Ecopetrol has taken its polyethylene operations offline for preventative maintenance due to feedstock issues stemming from an incident at the Barrancabermeja refinery, a company source said late Tuesday.

Ecopetrol placed both of the low-density polyethylene (LDPE) units on a 10-day maintenance plan Tuesday, the source said.

The halt to PE operations and their associated feedstock ethylene units comes after Ecopetrol on February 22 partially shut the 220,000 b/d Barrancabermeja complex.

Colombia’s largest refinery was dealing with unspecified “operational” problems February 22, a spokesman for owner Ecopetrol.

A power outage on February 22 impacted several units throughout the complex, including those involved in the production of ethylene, a company source said this week.

Following a three-day inspection, Ecopetrol decided to perform preventative maintenance on the entire LDPE chain, including its turboexpander ethane extraction unit, its ethylene plants and both LDPE lines, the company source added.

The maintenance is not expected to impact Ecopetrol supplies, the source said, adding that the company expects to meet its contractual agreements and attend to preferred customers with current stocks and imported resins.

Ecopetrol is Colombia’s sole PE producer and has a nameplate LDPE capacity of around 65,000 mt/year at Barrancabermeja, the source said.

The country’s LDPE demand is expected to be 83,000 mt/year in 2019, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics. Ecopetrol has produced around 55,000-60,000 mt/year in recent years, the source said.

Ecopetrol imported around 10,000 mt of PE in 2018 to complement its domestic production, with roughly 30% being brought in during the final quarter of the year, the source said.

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