02 September 2008 03:36 [Source: ICIS news]
HOUSTON (ICIS news)--US Gulf petrochemical plant operators expressed cautious optimism on Monday evening after Hurricane Gustav blustered through Louisiana without replicating the severe damage that its big sister Katrina left in 2005.
At 21:00 hours Houston time (02:00 GMT Tuesday), Gustav was bearing down on Shreveport in Louisiana's northwest corner, leaving in its wake localised flooding from heavy rainfall and blackouts from downed power lines. There was also a risk of tornadoes spinning off from the storm.
Television reports showed the damage from Gustav, which had weakened to the lowest ranking of Category 1, did not approach the devastation that Katrina had left behind.
Helpfully, Gustav was maintaining a relatively fast pace as it moved inland, taking it beyond the Lake Charles grouping of chemical assets.
Initial assessments showed the city of New Orleans was relatively unscathed, while the chemical industry's motherlode on the Texas coast was out of the direct firing line.
There were no specific reports yet of damage to refineries or chemical plants, but power supplies were in doubt. Many plants had been shut down ahead of the storm, and restarts may be delayed while electricity networks are restored.
Independent refining company Valero said a crew has conducted an initial assessment of the company's 250,000 bbl/day St. Charles refinery near New Orleans and "has found no significant structural damage to operational units".
The plant currently has operational electrical power, but the state of the local power grid is uncertain at this point, Valero said.
"A more complete survey of the plant will begin tomorrow, and at that point the refinery management will develop a restart plan. We do not have a timetable for when restart might commence."
Valero's Port Arthur, Texas City and Houston refineries remain at reduced rates.
ExxonMobil said its vast Baton Rouge complex, which includes a 500,000 bbl/day refinery and associated chemical plants, was in the process of a safe shutdown due to loss of power.
"We continue to monitor the storm closely and will return personnel and resume operations as soon as safely possible," ExxonMobil said in a statement.
ExxonMobil said it was moving product supply from non-impacted areas to help meet any significant shortfall resulting from Hurricane Gustav.
For more on ExxonMobil's Baton Rouge plant, visit ICIS plants and projects
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