Power outages remain high, delay chem plant restarts

Author: Al Greenwood


HOUSTON (ICIS)--Power outages have persisted on Wednesday in Louisiana and Texas, making it harder for petrochemical plants to resume operations.

Many plants remain shut down in part because of power outages, even though they escaped major damage from Hurricane Laura. The storm made landfall early on 27 August in Louisiana, close to the border with Texas.

The number of power outages reported by utilities remains high, as shown in the following table.

1-Sep 2-Sep
Louisiana 260,770 227,430
Texas 39,008 41,330

Source: PowerOutage.US

Entergy is the main power distributor in the regions hit hardest by the storm. The company is focusing on restoring power to critical community infrastructure such as fire and police departments, hospitals, water utilities and communications services, it said, adding, "As we restore service to residential, commercial and industrial customers, we must do it in a way that balances the needs of our customers with the ability to support additional load as the system permits."

Entergy gave no timeline as to when it could restore power to industrial plants.

A synthetic rubber producer said one plant may not get power until mid-September.

Sasol declared force majeure on alcohol, surfactant, alkylate and glycol products produced at its complex in Lake Charles, Louisiana, a chemical hub that was among the most affected by the storm.

An electrical blackout continues as a result of the damage to the transmission lines coming into Lake Charles, keeping the complex's operating units offline.

High wind speeds resulted in damage to the cooling towers, the company said. Otherwise, early assessments indicated no damage to process equipment, and no flooding impact from the storm surge.

Sasol produces ethylene, propylene, ethylene oxide (EO), ethylene glycol (EG), phenol, linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE), surfactants and other chemicals at the Lake Charles complex.

The company has declared force majeure on EG after the hurricane, according to market sources.

It also declared force majeure on LLDPE and high density PE (HDPE), according to a customer letter.

Sasol produces HDPE under a joint venture with INEOS in La Porte, Texas.

Westlake Chemical said late on 27 August that, based on initial assessment, its facilities at Lake Charles incurred limited physical damage from Hurricane Laura.

The restart timing "will primarily depend upon the availability of electricity, industrial gases and other feedstocks", the company said in a statement. Westlake did not single out or highlight any damage to transmission lines.

Westlake’s plants in Lake Charles include a joint venture ethane cracker, several units that produce low-density polyethylene (LDPE), linear low density PE (LLDPE), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), chlor-alkali (chlorine and caustic soda), ethylene dichloride (EDC) and vinyl chloride monomer (VCM).

Following the storm, Westlake declared force majeure on PVC and VCM, as well as on LDPE and LLDPE, market sources said.

The LACC cracker in Lake Charles remains down, market sources said. LACC is a joint venture made up of Westlake and Lotte Chemical.

Lotte declared force majeure on EG, according to market sources.

CITGO said its refinery in Lake Charles received damagefrom high winds as a result of Laura. It does not expect to restart the refinery immediately, and it will not have a restart date until it fully assesses the storm damage.

Firestone Polymers' US styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) plant remains shut down, it said. It suffered wind damage.

Louisiana Pigment said, "due to the extensive damage to the infrastructure supporting our area, it will be much longer than originally expected to restore services."

It does not know when employees will be able to return to work.

The plant is near Lake Charles, and makes titanium dioxide (TiO2).

Louisiana Pigment is a 50/50 joint venture between US-based Kronos Worldwide and UK-based Venator Materials.

WR Grace said its catalyst plant in Lake Charles suffered no significant damage.  It does not expect any significant effect on deliveries to customers. Shipments from inventory in Lake Charles will return this week, while the company works on a restart. Catalyst production will also be shifted to other plants as needed until Lake Charles operations resume.

The Lake Charles plant is the world's largest refining catalyst plant, Grace said. It makes sodium silicate, fluid cracking catalysts and hydroprocessing catalysts

Lion Elastomers is finishing repairs of minor damage at its styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) plants in Port Neches and Orange, both in Texas and close to the state's border with Louisiana.

Power should be restored at the Port Neches site in two weeks from Laura's 27 August landfall, Lion said. That would put power restoration at 10 September.

For the Orange site, restoration could be three weeks from landfall, or 17 September.

Covestro declared force majeure on toluene diisocyanate (TDI) supplies in North America as of 1 September, according to a company spokesperson.

The company said that the force majeure declaration was necessitated by the recent shutdown of the company’s facility in Baytown, Texas, ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Laura, along with an unforeseen shortage of a key raw material used in production.

Baytown is near Houston, which saw few effects from the storm. Nevertheless, many companies in the region shut down operations as a precaution.

Plants farther away from the landfall site suffered little damage and are resuming operations.

Capacity for some products was clustered around the area hit by Hurricane Laura, which caused a large portion of US production for those products to be shut down.

More than a third of US monoethylene glycol (MEG) production capacity is included in force majeure declarations.

Union Pacific has returned service to its main line network in the areas disrupted by Hurricane Laura. It will rely on generators throughout the Lake Charles area until power is restored.

Embargoes remain in effect, Union Pacific said.

Other railroad companies have been resuming normal operations, although they also warned of delays.

As of mid-day Tuesday, companies had shut in 525,099 bbl/day of oil in the Gulf of Mexico, a little over 28% of the total oil output in the region, according to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE). That is down sharply from Monday’s total of 989,414 bbl/day.

Producers have shut in 676.55 billion cubic feet (bcf)/day of gas, 25% of the US total in the Gulf, compared with 1.12 bcf/day on Monday.

Additional reporting by John Donnelly, Lucas Hall, Amanda Hay, Zachary Moore, Antoinette Smith and Alex Snodgrass

Thumbnail image shows damaged power lines in Louisiana. Photo by Gerald Herbert/AP/Shutterstock

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