UpdateTropical Storm Isaac gets closer to US Gulf coast

28 August 2012 16:33  [Source: ICIS news]

(adds details, updates throughout)Isaac threatens chems

HOUSTON (ICIS)--Tropical Storm Isaac continued lurching closer to the US Gulf coast on Tuesday, causing many companies to shut down plants as a precaution.

Isaac's centre was about 165 miles (260 km) southeast of New Orleans, Louisiana, according to the National Hurricane Center. It was travelling northwest at about 10 miles/hour.

Isaac is close to hurricane strength, and it should become one before making landfall by Wednesday near New Orleans.

If Isaac does make landfall as a hurricane, it could be a Category 1 or Category 2 hurricane, said Eqecat, a company that provides consulting to insurance and financial companies about managing risk caused by catastrophes.

Under the rating system used for hurricanes, a Category 1 storm has wind speeds of up to 95 miles/hour. A Category 2 hurricane has wind speeds of up to 110 miles/hour.

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.

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

CF Industries has shut down its fertilizer complex in Donaldsonville, Louisiana, located on the Mississippi river between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

US-based Mosaic plannned 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 planned to shut down all of its plants in Geismar, Louisiana.

US-based chlor-alkali producer Olin planned 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.

Several refineries were being shut down in advance of the storm.

As far as logistics, the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP) began shutting down marine operations and suspended oil tanker deliveries on Monday afternoon in anticipation of Isaac's expected landfall east of New Orleans, a spokeswoman said.

The mouth of the Mississippi river was closed to deep-draft vessels until the storm threat passed, the port said.

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.

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

By: Al Greenwood
+1 713 525 2645

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