US refiners, petchems brace for Mississippi river’s wrath

12 May 2011 22:14  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--US refiners and petrochemical producers along the Mississippi river are taking steps to protect their plants, employees and neighbours from rising floodwaters, a top industry official said on Thursday.

Charles Drevna, president of the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA), said the group’s members were “taking all necessary steps” to keep floodwaters at bay if possible and ensure the operational viability of their production sites.

He also noted that companies with plants in the Mississippi delta flood zone typically make arrangements to ensure safety precautions for their workforces and residents near production facilities.

Drevna's comments followed action by the White House in announcing a formal declaration of disaster in Mississippi. The declaration means that companies and households in the region damaged by floodwaters would be eligible for relief funds and recovery loans.

Petrochemical, refining and other process industry plants in the Mississippi Delta area and other regions of the US Gulf coast have longstanding preparation and reaction plans and procedures for catastrophic weather events. 

The region often is hit by hurricanes and tornadoes, in addition to flooding caused by upstream weather.

Production facilities typically will shut down in advance of a hurricane or other major weather emergency, or keep operating at low levels with minimum crew so that most workers can tend to their homes and families.

The rising Mississippi flood waters that have submerged towns and farms along its banks and tributaries in the upper midwest are now threatening a broad area of the Mississippi valley on the approaches to New Orleans, Louisiana, and other towns.

The flooding has already caused temporary shutdown or other production interruptions for polystyrene (PS), phosphate, caustic soda and base oils operations among others in the Mississippi region.

High waters on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers have forced suspension of canal locks operations and otherwise interrupted chemical barge traffic, forcing producers to shift deliveries to truck and rail resources.

The potential for flood-related damage to production facilities also has had impact on crude oil and fuel prices.

Drevna said that the flooding also “reminds us once again of the vital role America’s fuel and petrochemical manufacturers play” in the nation’s economy and security.

By: Joe Kamalick
+1 713 525 2653

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