UpdateChems to shut down many plants as Isaac nears US Gulf coast

27 August 2012 22:58  [Source: ICIS news]

Isaac nears US Gulf coast(adds updates, details throughout)

HOUSTON (ICIS)--Producers now plan to shut down several chemical plants and refineries as Tropical Storm Isaac continues approaching the US Gulf coast, sources said on Monday.

Tropical Storm Isaac will likely strengthen into a hurricane before it makes landfall by Wednesday.

Isaac's centre was about 255 miles (415 km) southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi river, according to the National Hurricane Center. It was travelling west northwest at about 12 miles/hour.

By Wednesday, when Isaac could make landfall near the Mississippi river, it will likely become a hurricane, with wind speeds of at least 74 miles/hour, the centre said.

Hurricanes can disrupt the North American petrochemical industry, since oil and gas production is concentrated in the Gulf of Mexico and much of the country's refineries and petrochemical plants are on the US Gulf coast.

So far, several chemical plants and refineries will be shut down in advance of the storm.

US melamine maker Cornerstone Chemical shut down production at its Waggaman, Louisiana, plant early on Monday after authorities ordered an evacuation of the area.

Cornerstone produces 60,000 tonnes/year of melamine at a plant in the Fortier Manufacturing Complex at Waggaman, about 40 miles from New Orleans.

The Cornerstone plant is expected to be shut down for at least several days, a source said.

US-based Mosaic plans to shut down its fertilizer plants at Uncle Sam and Faustina, Louisiana, the company said. Faustina has an ammonia capacity of 510,000 tonnes/year.

Fertilizer maker PotashCorp plans to shut down all of its plants in Geismar, Louisiana.

US-based chlor-alkali producer Olin plans to shut down its plants in St Gabriel, Louisiana, and in McIntosh, Alabama. Olin is shutting down the Alabama plant because rail service has been suspended.

US refiner Valero plans to shut down its 185,000 bbl/day St Charles refinery and its 125,000 bbl/day Meraux refinery.

Phillips 66 was in the process of shutting down its 247,000 bbl/day Alliance Refinery in Belle Chasse, Louisiana.

“We expect the refinery will be completely shut down by late Monday,” Phillips 66 said on its website. “The company’s 239,000 bbl/day Lake Charles refinery in Louisiana remains unaffected at this time and is actively monitoring the storm.”

US refiner Marathon said it will continue running its Garyville refinery, although at reduced rates. That is a change from earlier plans, when Marathon said it was shutting down the refinery.

Chevron said on Sunday night that its Pascagoula refinery was continuing to operate.

Polyolefins producer LyondellBasell was monitoring the storm but had not yet taken any action, a company spokesman said. LyondellBasell has a 460,000 tonne/year polypropylene (PP) plant at  Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Lion Copolymer had made no decisions yet at its styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) plant in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the company said.

Chlor-alkali producer Westlake has “initiated our Hurricane and Emergency Planning procedures for both our Lake Charles and our Geismar, [Louisiana] and are taking all steps necessary to protect our employees and the facilities”, said company spokesman Dave Hansen.

Georgia Gulf spokesman Alan Chapple said no determination has been made yet regarding its facilities in Plaquemine, Louisiana.

Huntsman spokeswoman Anne Knisely said that the company has made preparations at its plant in Geismar, Louisiana, which manufactures maleic anhydride (MA) among other products, and has stored product away to ensure that it can continue to supply its customers. Huntsman has started a policy of a 14-day lead time for orders, Knisely said.

Dow Chemical was monitoring the progress of the storm, and all of its plants in Louisiana were putting their storm-preparation plans into place as appropriate, the company said.

Sources said they do not expect any shutdowns or evacuations of any phenol/acetone plants.

In the Gulf of Mexico, evacuations have occurred at several oil and natural gas platforms.

As of Monday, workers had been evacuated from 346 production platforms, or 58.05% of the 596 manned platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.

As such, 78.02% of the daily oil production in the Gulf of Mexico has been shut-in, the bureau said. For natural gas, 48.13% has been shut-in.

The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP) began shutting down marine operations and would suspend oil tanker deliveries on Monday afternoon in anticipation of Isaac's expected landfall east of New Orleans, a spokeswoman said.

The deepwater port in the Gulf of Mexico planned to stop offloading oil tankers Monday afternoon, but would continue to make deliveries from onshore facilities as conditions allow, said LOOP spokeswoman Barb Hesterman.

The LOOP is the single largest point of entry for crude oil coming into the US, delivering about 1m bbl/day of foreign crude to refiners on the US Gulf coast.

Meanwhile, the port of New Orleans plans to shut down cargo operations by 1700 New Orleans time (2200 GMT).

The mouth of the Mississippi river has been closed to deep-draft vessels until the storm threat passes, the port said.

Additional reporting by Wesley Busch, John Dietrich, Ken Fountain, Lane Kelley, Michelle Klump, Anna Matherne, Larry Terry and Frank Zaworski

By: Al Greenwood
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