Gulf Plants Batten Down for Laura

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Refineries in eastern Texas and Louisiana are closing or scaling back operations as an intensifying Hurricane Laura barrels toward the United States.

Motiva Enterprises was reportedly shutting down its Port Arthur, Texas, refinery, which includes the nation’s largest base oil plant, while Phillips 66 confirmed the closing of its Lake Charles, Louisiana, refinery, which supplies feedstock to the adjacent Excel Paralubes base oil joint venture. Both facilities are near the Texas-Louisiana border, where Laura was tracking to make landfall.

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Together those base oil plants have capacity to produce more than 60,000 barrels per day of mostly API Group II base oils. Elsewhere ExxonMobil said it had scaled back operations at its Beaumont, Texas, refining complex, which includes a polyalphaolefin plant and a finished lubricant blending facility. Calumet was throttling back operations at its plant in Shreveport, Louisiana, which produces Group I, Group II and naphthenic base stocks.

Laura strengthened over Tuesday night to Category 3 hurricane and was forecast to reach Category 4 status by the time its eye reached the coast, estimated to happen around 1 a.m. Thursday. Category 4 storms have winds ranging from 130 to 156 miles per hour. Forecasters warned that Laura could also drop up to 15 inches of rainfall in some areas and cause a large storm surge that could carry unusually far inland.

Phillips 66 stated on its website Tuesday that it was shuttering its Lake Charles refinery, and S&P Global reported in its Market Insights that Motiva was doing likewise in Port Arthur.

ExxonMobil told Lube Report today that it had reduced operations at its fuels and chemicals refining complex in Beaumont, though a spokesman declined to comment on individual units. Calumet originally planned for its Shreveport facility to operate as usual since it is located in northwest Louisiana, but as forecasters raised the strength of winds expected to hit the area, the company decided to reduce operations slightly as a precautionary measure, a company source said. The company did not expect loading to be affected, and supply to its customers should continue without disruptions.

ExxonMobil’s refineries in Baytown, Texas, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, were operating normally but monitoring the situation, as were Ergon’s base oil plant in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and Chevron’s base oil plant in Pascagoula, Mississippi, companies said.

Vessel traffic was closed at the Ports of New Orleans, Baton Rouge and from the lower Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico, Reuters reported. Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, the largest Gulf Coast oil export facility, also halted operations at its marine terminal on Sunday.

Most base oil producers and blenders along the U.S. Gulf had padded inventories ahead of the hurricane season, which starts in June, in case of production disruptions brought about by severe weather.