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Massive earthquake shuts Hokkaido refining, all power plants

Staff Writer |
A massive earthquake that struck Hokkaido in the early hours Thursday led the automatic shutdown of Idemitsu Kosan's 150,000 b/d refinery and all of Hokkaido Electric's hydro, coal and oil-fired power plants, creating large-scale power outages across the vast island in northern Japan.

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The shutdown of all of Hokkaido Electric's power plants created massive power outages affecting 2.95 million households, as well as oil and LPG terminals in the island, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said in a statement.

Hokkaido Electric intends to first restart its five hydropower plants in order to restart its thermal power plants, as it needs the hydropower to restart the thermal plants, a company spokesman said.

Prior to the earthquake, Hokkaido Electric was operating the No. 1 350 MW, No. 2 600 MW and No. 4 700 MW coal-fired units at its largest 1.65 GW Tomato-Atsuma power plant, the spokesman said, S&P Gloal reported.

Now Hokkaido Electric aims to restart the Tomato-Atsuma No. 4 700 MW coal-fired unit first, as it has detected some damage to boiler pipes at the No. 1 and No. 2 units at the plant, according to METI.

The power utility was also operating a 350 MW oil-fired unit each at Shiriuchi and Date power plants, and a 175 MW coal-fired power plant at the Naie power plant in Hokkaido, the spokesman said.

It was not immediately clear how many of its 56 hydropower plants were in operation prior to the earthquake.

In the wake of power outages, Hokkaido Electric has also started to supply power from its idled Tomari nuclear power plants from three emergency diesel-fueled power generators to cool used fuel rods at the idled No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 nuclear reactors, the spokesman said.

The utility currently has sufficient diesel for about 10 days to fuel its 4,740 KW emergency generators each for No. 1 579 MW nuclear unit and No. 2 579 MW reactor, as well as for its 5,900 KW emergency generator for the No. 3 912 MW nuclear unit at the Tomari nuclear power plant, he added.

An Idemitsu Koran spokesman said Thursday that all refining units as well as waterborne and truck oil product shipments at the Hokkaido refinery had been suspended due to the earthquake. Idemitsu Kosan's 150,000 b/d refinery is the only refinery in Hokkaido.

JXTG Nippon Oil & Energy reported no facility damage at its Muroran plant in Hokkaido, where it is operating normally using its in-house power generation units, according to METI. In March 2014 refining operations were suspended at Muroran, where the company produces some petrochemicals and oil products.

But JXTG's Rumoi oil terminal, Tozai Oil Terminal's Tomakomai oil terminal and Japan Oil Network JONET's Tomakomai oil terminal are facing power outages, although none have sustained any facility damage, METI said.

Japanese LPG importers Astosmo Energy and Eneos Globe have suspended LPG shipments from their Tomakomani import terminal and Ishikari satellite terminal, respectively, in Hokkaido due to the earthquake, although these terminals also reported no facility damage, METI said.

METI added there is no reported damage or impact on Hokkaido's city gas supply from the earthquake.

Hokkaido was struck by an estimated 6.7 magnitude earthquake at around 03:08 am local time Thursday (1808 GMT) at a depth of 378 km, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.

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