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Oil refineries, ports assessing possible damages, restarting after Hurricane Laura


Refinery assessments ongoing in Lake Charles, Port Arthur, Beaumont

Houston Ship Channel is in the process of reopening

LOOP could restart as early as Aug. 28

  • Author
  • Jordan Blum
  • Editor
  • Jeff Mower
  • Commodity
  • Oil Shipping

Houston — Texas and Louisiana crude oil refineries and ports were assessing potential damages on Aug. 27 and beginning to reopen if possible after Hurricane Laura swept through the region overnight.

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The two large oil refineries operated by Citgo Petroleum and Phillips 66 near Lake Charles, Louisiana were most directly in the path of the strong Category 4 hurricane, but five major oil refineries also closed on the Texas side of the state line in advance of the storm. All five of the Texas refineries should restart soon after they pass safety inspections, the companies said.

More than 2.3 million b/d of refining capacity was taken offline in advance of Laura's landfall.

US Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said in a call that he's "very happy" with initial damages reports seeming "relatively light" at refineries and other energy infrastructure.

"There doesn't appear to be any major facility damage, but that's on first blush," Brouillette said of the impacted oil refineries. "I think they're going to be online very, very shortly."

However, he noted that more detailed inspections could turn up more damages and that restarts are still largely dependent on power being restored to the region, especially in and near Lake Charles.

Given the mostly positive reports, front-month NYMEX gasoline futures lost the bulk of the premium seen prior to the storm. NYMEX September RBOB settled at $1.2845/gal Aug. 27, down 7.61 cents on the day, and down 11.14 cents since Aug. 25.

Citgo said in a statement about its Lake Charles operations: "We have a team assembled and ready to begin assessment of the refinery, our service providers and our port facilities."

"We understand the importance of maintaining supply to our customers and the American economy and will be working diligently to safely bring the refinery back online," Citgo added.

Phillips 66 spokesman Dennis Nuss said assessments were ongoing and that any updates likely wouldn't be provided until late in the day or until Aug. 28.

Storm damages and power outages were widespread throughout the Lake Charles region, so refinery closures could still drag out for several days. However, Brouillette said about 20,000 utility workers from 27 states are being deployed to Louisiana to help restore power "very, very quickly."

Brouillette also noted that the critical Colonial Pipeline system was undamaged and still moving refined fuel products from Texas and Louisiana to up along the Atlantic Coast.

Closed refinery updates after Hurricane Laura
Refiner Plant Capacity (b/d) Status
Citgo Lake Charles, La. 425,000 Assessing damage
Phillips 66 Lake Charles, La. 249,000 Assessing damage
Motiva Port Arthur, Texas 630,000 Preparing for restart
Valero Port Arthur, Texas 335,000 Assessing damage
Total Port Arthur, Texas 225,500 Preparing for restart
ExxonMobil Beaumont, Texas 366,000 Preparing for restart
Chevron Pasadena, Texas 110,000 Restarting
Total capacity offline: 2,3450,500 b/d


The LOOP oil-shipping facility in Louisiana remained closed and could reopen as early as Aug. 28 if no serious damage is discovered, a LOOP official said.

Farther east, New Orleans area ports were open, although the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and Port of New Orleans were open with restrictions.

In Texas, the four major refineries in Port Arthur and Beaumont that are operated by Motiva, ExxonMobil, Total and Valero Energy remain closed, as well as Chevron's Pasadena Refinery closer to Houston. But they're all gearing up to restart after passing safety assessments.

"The Beaumont complex remains safely shutdown," said ExxonMobil spokesman Jeremy Eikenberry. "We are conducting a preliminary assessment to determine the impact of the storm on our facilities. All essential personnel who remained at the facilities during the storm are safe and have been accounted for."

He added that ExxonMobil's Baytown and Baton Rouge complexes continued to operate safely.

The nation's largest refinery, Motiva's 630,000 b/d Port Arthur facility, sustained "minimal damage," according to a statement.

"Motiva will conduct all necessary assessments and preparations to ready its Port Arthur refinery and chemical plant for startup as soon as it is safe to do so," Motiva said in a statement.

Chevron's 110,000 b/d Pasadena, Texas refinery was gearing up to restart.

"We have completed our post-Laura assessment of the Pasadena refinery, which did not sustain any damage during the storm," said Chevron spokeswoman Veronica Flores-Paniagua. "We continue to meet the supply needs of our customers."

Likewise, Valero spokeswoman Lillian Riojas said its Port Arthur Refinery is undergoing a "thorough safety, environmental and operational assessment of refinery status and potential storm impacts."

And Total said it is bringing its operations back online, but first completing damage checks at the Port Arthur Refinery before initiating startup.

As for ports and waterways, the Houston Ship Channel reopened on Aug. 27 after avoiding any major storm impacts.

The ports of Freeport, Galveston, Houston and Texas City all opened on Aug. 27, according to the US Coast Guard, but with some restrictions. Freeport and Texas City implemented 26-foot draft restrictions, while Galveston only opened up to tug and barge traffic.

Magellan Midstream Partners said its East Houston terminal hub is operating normally after briefly suspending truck-loading operations late on Aug. 26. Magellan had shut down its nearby Galena Park oil and refined products terminal.

"We are in the process of conducting final inspection at the facility this morning and can report that we did not encounter any wind damage or flooding issues," said Magellan spokesman Bruce Heine. "We expect to resume normal operations at the facility in the near future."