UpdateUS refinery shutdowns begin on Gustav

31 August 2008 03:13  [Source: ICIS news]

Three-day projected path of Gustav(Adds updates throughout)

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--Some refineries on the US Gulf coast began shutdown procedures on Saturday as Hurricane Gustav blasted across Cuba, companies said.

Gustav hit Cuba on Saturday night as a category 4 hurricane with winds of 150 miles/hour (240km/hour), the National Hurricane Center said.

The hurricane could hit the US Gulf coast as early as Monday afternoon, according to hurricane centre projections, which was earlier than some previous forecasts.

Gustav was churning toward the northwest at nearly 15 miles/hour (24km/hour), according to the hurricane centre, and was expected to strengthen.

The hurricane centre’s three-day projection showed the hurricane on course towards Louisiana.

Government authorities ordered New Orleans residents to begin evacuations on Sunday morning, according to news reports. 

However, a hurricane watch remained in effect for the northern US Gulf coast from east of High island, Texas to the Alabama-Florida border.

“The model spread is still sufficiently large to serve as a reminder that we cannot specify exactly where or when the centre of Gustav will make final landfall,” the hurricane centre said in a statement.

Shell said its branded fuel stations throughout the US Gulf coast were experiencing a spike in demand as populations were preparing for evacuations.

Valero began the shutdown of its St Charles refinery in Louisiana, the energy company said.

“Our Port Arthur, Texas City and Houston refineries [in Texas] are currently operating at reduced rates, and we will make decisions on whether to take further steps at Port Arthur sometime tomorrow,” Valero said in a statement. “Our Corpus Christi [Texas] plants are currently operating at planned rates.”

ExxonMobil’s Chalmette refinery in Louisiana began shutdown procedures on Saturday, the company said.

“Essential personnel are on site to ensure a safe and orderly shutdown,” ExxonMobil said. “All other personnel have been released.”

“At this time, normal operations continue at all other ExxonMobil refineries and chemical plants along the Gulf Coast,” the company said in its evening update.

ExxonMobil said it shut in offshore operations amounting to 5,000 bbl/day of oil and 50m cubic feet/day of natural gas in advance of the hurricane.

The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP) said it suspended operations at its marine terminal but was continuing to make deliveries to customers.

Nearly 77% of US oil production and 37% of natural gas production was shut in on Saturday from the Gulf of Mexico as Gustav exploded into a category 4 storm with sustained winds of 150 miles/hour (240km/hour), authorities said.

Offshore oil and gas operators in the Gulf of Mexico were evacuating platforms and rigs in the path of Gustav, the US Minerals Management Service (MMS) said.

Workers were evacuated from a total of 223 production platforms by Saturday morning, equivalent to 31.1% of the 717 manned platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, the MMS said.

“Personnel from 45 rigs have also been evacuated:  this is equivalent to 37.2 % of the 121 rigs currently operating in the Gulf,” the MMS said.

“From the operators’ reports, it is estimated that approximately 76.77 % of the oil production in the Gulf has been shut in,” the MMS said, amounting to 998,021 bbl/day.

About 37.16% of the natural gas production in the Gulf has been shut in, amounting to 2.75bn cubic feet/day, the MMS said.

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By: Brian Ford
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