16 May 2011 23:01 [Source: ICIS news]
HOUSTON (ICIS)--The Mississippi river will crest earlier than expected, reaching 45 feet (14 metres) at Baton Rouge, Louisiana, later this week, the National Weather Service said on Monday.
The lower Mississippi river is home to several chemical plants and refineries.
The National Weather Service had expected the river to crest on 22 May at 47.5 feet, breaking the record set in 1927.
However, the service revised its forecast after the US Army Corps of Engineers opened the Morganza Spillway, which is upriver from Baton Rouge.
By opening the spillway, the Corps diverted a portion of the water away from Baton Rouge and the lower Mississippi river.
As a result, the river will crest at a lower level earlier than expected.
The service now expects the river to crest at Baton Rouge by Wednesday, 18 May, it said. The river will remain at 45 feet at least through Saturday.
Dow Chemical suspended dock operations at its sites in Louisiana at Plaquemine and St Charles as a precaution.
ExxonMobil shut down the dock facility at its Baton Rouge refinery. However, the refinery continues to operate and produce products.
Refineries along the river are unlikely to flood, and most receive the majority of their crude oil by pipeline, said Richard Metcalf, director of environmental affairs at the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association.
However, the high water could prevent refineries from shipping out product. Refiners would have to store product until it can be shipped.
Metcalf said refiners could probably store production for about two weeks.
Some chemical plants are already having shipping problems and have reduced operating rates, said Dan Borne, president of the Louisiana Chemical Association.
The longer the disruptions last, the wider the effects will be, Borne said.
Plants far from the Mississippi river rely on Louisiana for feedstock. If those plants cannot receive feedstock from the river region, they too could cut operation rates.
The lower Mississippi is home to several chemical plants. Plaquemine and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, have plants for companies including Georgia Gulf, Dow Chemical, Shintech, ExxonMobil, Formosa Plastics and Lion Copolymer.
There are 10 refineries along the lower portion of the Mississippi river.
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