Most operations at the Mont Belvieu, TX, natural gas liquids (NGL) processing plant owned and operated by Enterprise Products Partners LP (EPD) are either back to normal or soon will be, and plans for a new fractionator there remain on schedule, said EPD CEO Michael Creel.

"Operationally, since last week we have focused on returning our Mont Belvieu facilities to as close to the same capabilities as we had prior to the event," Creel said during a conference call with financial analysts Thursday.

The Mont Belvieu plant experienced a series of explosions Feb. 8, which resulted in a fire that spread to nearby vehicles and equipment (see Daily GPI, Feb. 9). A contract worker was found dead in the rubble. The fire erupted at the facility's western NGL storage terminal.

Enterprise has said the main operating equipment was not damaged and remained operational, including NGL fractionators, propylene fractionators, butane isomerization units, an octane enhancement facility, the north and east facilities, and the import/export terminals on the Houston Ship Channel. Several nearby chemical and processing facilities reduced or shuttered services after the explosion but no major impacts to services were reported.

"None of our gas processing plants were curtailed as a result of the event, and we have diverted a wide range of our fractionators into third-party fractionators...Our exporting facilities continue to run, although we did have to short-load two ships...We've been operating our Mont Belvieu fractionators at reduced rates while making the necessary piping changes to avoid the storage area," Creel said.

"We're changing our storage configuration to enable us to recover our receipt and delivery capabilities by using our north and east storage facilities. Three of our Mont Belvieu fractionators are running now and we expect to have the fourth fractionator up tonight, and to have the Mont Belvieu fractionators running at full rates by tomorrow [Friday]. We also expect to have full connectivity in between our north storage area, where our fractionators and other plants are located, and our east storage area by the middle of next week. This will enhance our ability to resume service to our customers."

Receipt capabilities are at 100% of the pre-event level and EPD expects delivery capabilities will ultimately be 85% to more than 100% of pre-event levels. The company is also working to build in redundancies to ensure that the incident is not repeated, he said.

The incident at Mont Belvieu won't affect EPD's previously announced schedule for construction of a fifth fractionator at the site, Creel said. "We spent about $58 million of capex on frac five in the fourth quarter and it's scheduled to come on at the end of 2011 or the beginning of 2012."

EPD reported 4Q2010 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) of $803 million (33 cents/share), a 5.6% decrease compared with $851 million (37 cents/share) in 4Q2009. EPD also reported full year 2010 EBITDA of $3.26 billion, an 18% increase compared with $2.76 billion in 2009.

Record fee-based gas processing volumes during the year contributed to record net income of $1.38 billion for the year, according to COO Jim Teague.

EPD partner Duncan Energy Partners LP reported a 4Q2010 profit of $25 million (43 cents) compared with $23.2 million (40 cents) in 4Q2009.

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