Pump failure caused Sasol weekend flaring

By By Frank DiCesare / American Press

A pump failure inside Sasol’s ethane cracker last weekend was the cause of the large flares that could be seen for miles coming

from the company’s Westlake plant.

Mike Hayes, Sasol’s public affairs

manager for U.S. megaprojects, said the plant was coming out of a

shutdown situation on

Saturday when a pump inside the cracker lost suction, causing one

of the compressors to heat up and shut down. The gas that

would’ve been sent through the compressor was sent directly to the

flare, which caused the big flames.

Hayes said the plant had heavy flaring for about an hour. He added that plant officials had the pump stabilized and back in

its start-up position shortly thereafter.

Sasol conducts shutdowns periodically

to do maintenance and repair work. Hayes said the flares released during

a routine shutdown

are usually not visible, especially when the process goes

smoothly. He added, however, that flaring can happen anytime, day

or night.

Sasol schedules full turnarounds on its ethane cracker every five years, Hayes said, adding that the plant has shutdowns

for many reasons.

“There are times when you have equipment issues when you have to go in and put the plant in stand-by operation mode, clear

part of it, and repair some equipment,” Hayes added. “Then you go through a full start-up.

“Ethylene is a high-value product for us,” he said. “When the ethylene plant is not operating, we’re losing money. When it’s

ready to start up, we start up.”