Tropical storm Beta forms in Gulf of Mexico, threatens Texas

Author: Al Greenwood

2020/09/18

HOUSTON (ICIS)--Tropical storm Beta formed in the Gulf of Mexico on Friday, threatening the coast of Texas.

Beta could strengthen into a hurricane by Sunday night before weakening again to a tropical storm, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Beta is named after the Greek letter because meteorologists have exhausted the letters in the Latin alphabet during this year's hurricane season. The first storm of 2020 to sport a Greek letter, subtropical storm Alpha, made landfall in Portugal and should dissipate on Saturday.

The path of Beta still has quite a bit of uncertainty as shown in the following map. The shaded area shows the possible path in the next three days. The dotted area shows the possible path in the next 4-5 days.

Source: National Hurricane Center

Beta is 335 miles (545 km) east northeast of Tampico, Mexico, and 280 miles east-southest of the mouth of the Rio Grande river, according to the National Hurricane Center. Maximum sustained winds are 40 miles/hour.

Beta could disrupt more oil production in the Gulf of Mexico just as companies begin to restart wells that were shut-in because of Hurricane Sally. A fifth of US oil production remained offline on Friday.

As Beta approaches the Texas coast, it could threaten several chemical plants, refineries and terminals that export oil, fuel, liquefied natural gas (LNG) and natural gas liquids (NGLs) such as ethane and liquified petroleum gas (LPG).

The southernmost cluster of petrochemical plants, refineries and terminals is in Corpus Christi, Texas. Farther north is Freeport, followed by Houston and then the Golden Triangle, which encloses the region of Beaumont, Orange and Port Arthur.

The Golden Triangle is near the Louisiana border. Plants there had shut down because of Hurricane Laura.

BUSY STORM SEASON
This year's hurricane season has been unusually busy for the Gulf Coast.

Marco made landfall on 24 August in Louisiana as a tropical storm after weakening from a hurricane. The storm caused companies to shut-in some oil wells as a precaution.

Hurricane Laura made landfall days later on 27 August as a powerful Category 4 storm in Louisiana near the border of Texas. Several chemical plants and refineries in Louisiana and Texas shut down as a result of the storm.

Many in Lake Charles, Louisiana, remained down because of power outages caused by Laura. The last chemical plants should resume operations in mid-October.

Louisiana was threatened by a third storm, Hurricane Sally, earlier this week before it changed course and made landfall in Alabama on 16 September.

A couple of companies shut down plants in Louisiana as a precaution.

INEOS Phenol, one of the few companies that makes chemicals in Alabama, shut down its phenol and acetone plant in Mobile because of a power outage.

The disruptions caused by the storms had squeezed chemical markets that were already tight.

Thumbnail image shows the path of tropical storm Beta. Source: National Hurricane Center

Click here to view the US Gulf storms – impacts on chemicals topic page.