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COVID-Driven Oxygen Shortage Causes Texas Refinery To Partly Shut Down

Citgo is shutting down for four days parts of its refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas, due to a shortage of oxygen, which is needed at hospitals as COVID cases surge.

Citgo Refining and Chemical is idling a unit at the Corpus Christi refinery for four days until September 6 due to losing third-party oxygen supplies, according to a filing from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality quoted by Bloomberg.

“CITGO West Plant will be shutting down its sulfur recovery unit B-train due to the loss of third-party O2 supply resulting from increased medical field demand,” the Texas commission says.

Oxygen in the U.S. South is running low amid a spike in COVID infections and hospitalizations, which have led to an increased use of oxygen. Suppliers of oxygen are prioritizing deliveries to hospitals and diverting O2 supply from industrial customers to medical use.

Rich Craig, Vice-President of Technical and Regulatory Affairs at the Compressed Gas Association (CGA), told gasworld that he had not heard of hospitals running out of oxygen.

The tighter oxygen supply for industrial use, however, is impacting refinery operations, at least those of Citgo Refining and Chemical in Corpus Christi.

Soaring demand for medical liquid oxygen has also impacted the space industry, which faces fuel shortages because of tighter oxygen supplies needed for rocket fuel.  

Last week, NASA said it was postponing the launch date for the Landsat 9 spacecraft scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The Landsat 9 launch now is expected no earlier than Thursday, September 23, a week later than scheduled earlier.

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“Current pandemic demands for medical liquid oxygen have impacted the delivery of the needed liquid nitrogen supply to Vandenberg by the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) and its supplier Airgas. Airgas converts the liquid nitrogen to gaseous nitrogen needed for launch vehicle testing and countdown sequences. DLA and Airgas now have implemented efforts to increase the supply of liquid nitrogen to Vandenberg,” NASA said.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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