Regrouping After Hurricane Ike


While base oil, additive and chemical manufacturers in southeastern Texas face power, fuel, water, food and transportation challenges in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, the industry may be breathing a sigh of relief it has escaped the type of structural damage Hurricanes Katrina and Rita unleashed in 2005.

Companies largely chose to shut down operations in an orderly fashion last week in preparation for the hurricane, which struck the Texas coast Saturday, Sept. 13.While most report little damage from the hurricane, most are still determining timetables for starting their facilities back up.

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As an industry, we fared relatively well, Lyondell public affairs director David Harole told Lube Report. It will take time for each of the plants, ours included, to come back up. It was not a catastrophic hit, in that it did not destroy any of the refining and petrochemical infrastructures.

In advance of Ike, Lyondell shut down its Houston base oil plant, which has 1,000 b/d of API Group II and 3,600 b/d of naphthenic capacity. We are in the process of taking steps to restart the facility, Harole said. We have several days worth of work in advance of when we can begin the startup.

According to Harole, there was no extensive damage. There was some water damage to isolated areas, but nothing that will delay the overall startup of the facility, he said. That water damage was from rain water, it wasnt from rising water or storm surge.

Motiva had shut down its Port Arthur plant, which has 40,000 barrels per day of Group II capacity, in preparation for the hurricane. Its offices remained closed yesterday.

The Motiva Refinery is continuing its health, safety and environmental assessments of the refinery, Motiva co-owner Shell said in an update yesterday on its Web site. Minor repairs are underway, and we are working with the local utility provider to bring electricity to the site and are setting up portable generators for buildings to support people needs. A priority is establishing generator power to enable movements of gasoline and diesel in inventory to the pipeline distribution system. It was too early to predict when the refinery will resume normal operations, Shell added.

ExxonMobil last week shut down its refineries in Baytown and Beaumont, Texas, in anticipation of Ike.

As of yesterday, ExxonMobils Beaumont complex did not have power. Beaumont is continuing its assessment, spokeswoman Betsy Eaton told Lube Report. Its base oil plant has 10,000 b/d of Group I capacity.

Eaton said the Baytown complex was completing its preliminary damage assessment. Theyre in the process of developing a startup plan to restart the refinery, she added. ExxonMobil said the complex is generating its own power and providing a portion to power companies to help neighborhoods and businesses get back online. The Baytown refinerys base oil plant has 9,800 b/d of Group I and 11,700 b/d of Group II capacity.

ExxonMobils Baton Rouge, La., plant, with 14,500 b/d of Group I and 1,500 b/d of Group II capacity, is up and running.

Lubrizol operates a polyisobutene plant in Deer Park, Texas, with 90,000 metric tons per year capacity. It also operates a plant in Pasadena.

They had some minor damage, but there was no major structural damage to speak of, Lubrizol spokeswoman Julie Young told Lube Report. Even though we have power, it doesnt mean all of our third-party suppliers have power and are fully functional yet. We do anticipate resuming our shipments next Monday, and we could be fully operational by then as well.

In August 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Chevron Oronite was forced to close its Belle Chasse, La., factory partly due to on-site damage, but more due to devastation to the areas power and transportation infrastructures. This time around, the additives manufacturer fared better, as the Oak Point plant was not impacted structurally by Ike, according to marketing communications manager Susan Boyle. I think the issue were allconcerned about is road access, waterway access, raw materials, shipping coming and going – that and energy, Boyle told Lube Report.

She said the natural gas supply situation is fragile. Right now the plant has power, going off of one natural gas pipeline, but its a tenuous situation for everybody right now, Boyle added.

According to a Chevron update Saturday, the companys blending plant in Port Arthur reported flooding and was shut down. The plant, which was down for almost a month after Hurricane Rita struck in September 2005, blends and packages finished lubricants and greases. It also loads product onto bulk trucks and barges.

At its Hahnville, La., chemical facility, Dow Chemical reported no additional damage to Union Carbides St. Charles Operations, which had not yet come back up after Hurricane Gustav blew through on Labor Day. That operation, which makes ethyleneamines and polyethylene glycols, is still proceeding towards startup, the company said Monday. In 2005 following Katrinas wrath, Dow had to declare force majeure for those and other products.

Dow said it also was able to safely shut down its Texas Operations site in Freeport, Texas,ahead of Ikes landfall last week, and reported that no apparent significant structural damage has been found there. Among other chemicals, the Freeport plant makes polyalkylene glycols used as synthetic lubricants. Employees were advised yesterday that the site is safe and can resume normal operations; they can report to work at the start of their regular shift today.

However, Dow warned, returning employees may find some roads blocked by downed electric lines around the plant. Power, food, water, medical services and other infrastructure are still in critical shape, it advised.

Huntsman on Monday said initial assessments indicated its facilities in the Texas Gulf Coast region suffered no significant damage. Its plants affected by the hurricane include Porte Neches, whose products include ethanolamines and surfactants; Freeport, which manufactures ethyleneamines; Dayton, which manufactures surfactants; and Conroe, whose products include specialty amines and surfactants.

However, none of the plants are operational at the moment, as we are constrained by the availability of power and in some cases we anticipate raw material and transportation restrictions, said President and CEO Peter Huntsman. We will be working together with our partners to get all of our plants back up and running, in a safe and efficient manner, and will communicate directly with our customers with regard to product availability.

Texas Petrochemicals said it sustained minor damage at its four production facilities and terminals in the Houston area, including a 65,000 mt/y polyisobutene plant. All four facilities experienced sustained winds of more than 90 mph for multiple hours and recorded gusts of more than 110 mph.

The restoration of power and basic services in the Houston and Port Neches areas will dictate how fast the start-up crews and the recovery process will proceed, said President and CEO Charlie Shaver. We are currently assessing all transportation (marine, rail, truck) and utility (power and process gas) service providers. At this time these services are restricted or unavailable.

Shaver said almost all of the companys raw material suppliers and customers were shut down as of Monday afternoon. We are in contact with most of them, and we expect them to be back and operational within a short period of time.

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