UpdateNortheast US chem producers prepare for Hurricane Sandy

26 October 2012 22:34  [Source: ICIS news]

Hurricane Sandy(adds paragraphs 1-12)

HOUSTON (ICIS)--The US chemical industry is ready to implement emergency plans as it monitors Hurricane Sandy, which is expected to hit the east coast early next week, a trade group said on Friday.

“The facilities are pretty prepared,” said Scott Jensen, a spokesman with the American Chemistry Council (ACC). “They’ll put their plans in place as they get a better understanding of where the storm is going to hit and how it will impact them.”

Loss of power and flooding can lead to plant shutdowns, but most facilities were not expected to incur major structural damage and will be operational within days, the ACC said.

“The storm can cause cascading effects beyond being able to get the facility back online such as transporting material in, getting the employees access and shipping the products out,” Jensen said.

Staying informed is key, he added, and the federal government has done a good job coordinating with the ACC and directly communicating with the facilities.

The Chemistry Council of New Jersey (CCNJ) said the Regional Operations Intelligence Center was on alert, prepared for the state to communicate with the private sectors about power, utilities, transportation and other operations.

Chemical companies along the coast said they were closely monitoring the situation.

“All of our East coast operations continue to operate normally while we prepare our facilities for the storm,” said Phillips 66, which operates a 238,000 bbl/day refinery in Linden, New Jersey.

Braskem said it was undergoing storm preparations at its 345,000 tonne/year polypropylene (PP) plant in Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania.

As of 1500 hours Florida time (1900 hours GMT) on Friday, the outer bands of the hurricane were causing high waves and wind gusts of up to 35 miles/hour (56 km/hour) on the east Florida coast, according to news media reports.

The centre of the storm was about 200 miles from the US coast, packing winds of up to 75 miles/hour as it churned northward from the Bahamas.

The storm was seen to weaken somewhat as it moved about 7 miles/hour.

Over the next day or two, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said it expects the storm to move north/northeast, roughly paralleling the North Carolina coast, said James Franklin, branch chief of the NOAA’s National Hurricane Center. Then, the hurricane is expected to bend toward the north-northwest with “pretty significant impact” in the mid-Atlantic states and southern New England area.

The NOAA said on Friday there was a 90% chance the storm would make landfall in four or five days, with much broader impact than Hurricane Irene, which swept along the eastern coastline in August 2011.

It was too early for forecasters to to narrow the storm's projected track, but the landfall area may see 5-10 inches (32-65 cm) of rain, causing potential flooding, said Louis Uccellini, director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Prediction. The state of West Virginia may experience a foot of snow with the cold front moving to the east.

NOAA said the said the large size of the system, which has been labelled "Frankenstorm" by the news media, and its slow movement would cause “pretty significant surge and widespread winds".

In 2011, Irene paralleled the US east coast, while Sandy may hit the coastline more directly, Franklin said.

In addition, NOAA is seeing at least three “blocking mechanisms” causing the storm to move in a westrly direction. With the slow movement, the storm will last several days, and the full moon early next week will affect tides.

For other companies that may be affected by the hurricane, see ICIS Plants & Projects

By: Tracy Dang
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