Interview article by Tracy Dang
BERLIN (ICIS)--The refining and petrochemical hub along the US Gulf Coast faced major challenges because of severe flooding from Hurricane Harvey, but an industry group representative said on Monday that companies responded fairly well while keeping safety in mind.
“Harvey – it was unprecedented – the amount of rainfall that happened in a very short amount of time,” said Jim McCloskey, vice president of petrochemical and manufacturing at the American Fuel and Petrochemicals Manufacturers (AFPM).
Unlike past hurricanes such as Katrina, Rita and Ike, the Houston area in Texas did not experience wind damage or widespread power outages, he said on the sidelines of the 51st annual European Petrochemical Association (EPCA) meeting.
“I personally believe that the industry did very, very well and took the necessary steps to reduce rates rather than shut down completely, though we did have some unavoidable shutdowns,” McCloskey said. “All while keeping safety in mind. We’re a very safety conscious community. All in all, I think our member companies did a good job managing the safety components.”
A host of petrochemical plants shut down or reduced rates. The closure of ports, terminals and pipelines put further strain on the industry.
According to the AFPM, 24 refineries with a quarter of US refining capacity were impacted by Harvey.
Two weeks later, however, 20 of those refineries had restarted or were in the process of restarting, the AFPM said.
“I think the biggest issue is not what happened to the plants, but what happened to the workers,” McCloskey said on Monday. “So many workers displaced.”
He continued: “And if you start talking to our member companies and how they took care of their workers – putting them up in hotels, helping them to rebuild, making it as easy as possible in very difficult times so that they could return back to work – it is amazing how people came together and work toward recovery.”
Companies donated not only money to Harvey relief efforts, but also food, supplies and other services to help the community rebuild.
“There is a lot that we can learn – that our members can learn,” McCloskey concluded. “The thing we really know is safety is very transparent in our industry. You go to our safety conferences, and people are open about what they do for safety in the incidents and how to prevent those things. And certainly Harvey will fall into that – how we learn and we do better because storms will come again.”
Hurricane response information and resources can be found on the AFPM’s website.
The annual EPCA meeting runs from 30 September to 3 October.
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