Power outages plague Gustav-struck plants

02 September 2008 17:21  [Source: ICIS news]

Outages plague Louisiana chemsHOUSTON (ICIS news)--Several Louisiana chemical plants remained shut down due to power outages on Tuesday following Hurricane Gustav’s landfall on Monday, companies reported.

Gustav has since weakened to a tropical depression.

A source close to Formosa Plastics said the company’s 450,000 tonnes/year polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plant in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was shut down ahead of the storm.

It remained unclear on Tuesday when the Formosa plant would be restarted due to power outages and flooding in the Baton Rouge area.

Georgia Gulf shut down its PVC and chlor-alkali operations in Plaquemine, Louisiana, ahead of the storm including a 560,000 tonne/year PVC plant and a 410,000 tonne/year caustic soda plant, sources said.

A source close to the company said it had employees at the facilities on Tuesday to assess when the plant could be restarted. 

ExxonMobil shut down its Baton Rouge complex in Louisiana on Monday, the company said. ExxonMobil was now conducting a preliminary site assessment to determine if Gustav had any effect on the site.

ExxonMobil has not scheduled a restart date, the company said.

Westlake said its Louisiana chemical sites at Geismar and Lake Charles remained shut down on Tuesday.

Both sites were brought down safely in anticipation of the storm, said Westlake spokesman David Hansen.

Westlake’s Geismar plant, which makes PVC resin for its downstream operations, had no electric power and had incurred minor damage, Hansen said.

Hansen said he did not know when operations would be restored at Westlake’s Geismar plant. “Everybody is working hard to reconnect the power and get feedstocks flowing there,” he said.

“As for Lake Charles, we anticipate we will be able to start making product later this week subject to availability of feedstock,” Hansen said. The Lake Charles plant makes ethylene, styrene and polyethylene.

Westlake’s Lake Charles site has a production capacity of more than 1m tonnes/year of ethylene, 362,000 tonnes/year of polyethylene and 220,000 tonnes/year of styrene, according to ICIS plants and projects.

Sasol’s Lake Charles 10,000 tonne/year n-butanol plant (10,000 tonnes/year) "was shut down precautionarily for the hurricane,” a source said. “We have enough butanol inventory and don't expect it to be any issue whatsoever”.

One day after Gustav hit Louisiana, shipping delays and power outages were the greatest concern to US base oil players, sources said.

Gustav weakened to a category two storm just before it hit Louisiana, largely sparing the base oils market.

Excel Paralubes, the base oils joint venture between ConocoPhillips and Flint Hills, was shut down ahead of the storm, according to buyers. 

Buyers said they received notice on Tuesday that there would be no shipping until Friday at the earliest, as the producer assesses any damage from the storm.

Excel’s facility in Westlake, Louisiana produces 21,900 bbl/day of Group II and III base oils, as well as 21,900 bbl/day of finished lubricants.

ExxonMobil’s base oil facility in Baton Rouge, Louisiana was shut down until power is restored, a buyer said. The Baton Rouge refinery produces 16,500 bbl/day of Group I and II base oils.

Electricity problems could still crop up and that is the biggest concern to lubes production,” a base oils producer said.

Additives production at Chevron Oronite’s Oak Point facility in Belle Chase, Louisiana was shut down on Sunday ahead of the storm, buyers said. No shipments would occur this week.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) temporarily waived certain federal clean gasoline requirements for parts of Texas in response to possible disruptions in the fuel distribution network due to  Gustav, the agency said.

The waiver, effective until 10 September, applies to the 7.8 RVP (Reid Vapour Pressure) gasoline volatility requirements that apply in certain areas of Texas. The waiver also enables the sale of conventional gasoline in reformulated gas (RFG) areas, EPA officials said.

On Tuesday, US Gulf gasoline market players said the waiver may have little to no impact on the market, as there was no more summer grade 7.8 RVP gasoline trading.

At the request of the state, the EPA granted the waiver on Monday after EPA officials determined that extreme and unusual supply circumstances existed. Officials expected a shortage of gasoline compliant with federal regulations after Gustav made landfall.

The Mosaic Company said it will contribute $200,000 (€136,000) to the American Red Cross and local disaster relief organisations for hurricane relief efforts.

($1 = €0.68)

(Additional reporting by Heather McGuire Doyle, Leela Landress, Brian Balboa, Larry Terry, Greg Holt and Al Greenwood)

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By: Brian Ford
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