Taking Stock in Mont Belvieu, Six Days After the Fire

Mont Belvieu, Texas: Home to the nation's largest propane supply, as well as the Houston East Recreational Vehicle Resort, shown above. (image: Riccardo Velez via flickr.com)

The signs are mixed from Mont Belvieu, Texas, almost a week after a fire tore through a storage facility at the nation’s largest propane hub. Most of the affected gas fractionators are running again (four out of six, by our count) and spot propane prices never pinballed out of control, suggesting a minimal impact on the LPG side.

That said, a Dutch petrochemical firm continues to run at reduced capacity, because the disruption cut into its propane and ethane supplies, according to Bloomberg. And a Dupont chemical plant experienced a “slight hiccup,” but was able to adjust its feedstock needs and keep operating, according to Platts.

Elsewhere, prices for butane and ethane — propane’s hydrocarbon cousins — both posted noticeable gains, according to price reports. That has us wondering if the markets know something we don’t; Enterprise Products, which owns the storage facility, declined to identify precisely which natural gas liquids were affected by last Tuesday’s explosion. One analyst said he thought it was light-end NGLs, perhaps propane and ethane.

An unnamed source tells Platts the situation was “not great but we are surviving.” Another describes the disruption as “a major event in the marketplace.”

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration launched an investigation into the fire, says the Associated Press.

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