Houston — A bevy of refinery closures are starting to be made in southeastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana as Tropical Storm Laura takes aim at the epicenter of the nation's refining and petrochemical complex.
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Motiva said it will close its more than 600,000 b/d refinery and chemical operations in Port Arthur, Texas, while ExxonMobil is starting to shut down its 366,000 b/d refinery in neighboring Beaumont. Total is closing its 225,500 b/d refinery nearby in Port Arthur on Aug. 25 ahead of the landfall that could come as early as the evening of Aug. 26.
Valero also said on Aug. 25 it will shut down its 335,000 b/d Port Arthur Refinery in advance of Laura.
Earlier in the day, Phillips 66 said it is shutting down its roughly 250,000 b/d Lake Charles Refinery in Louisiana. And Citgo Petroleum also is closing its 425,000 b/d Lake Charles Refinery.
Phillips 66 said it started a "safe and orderly shutdown of the facility" near Lake Charles.
"We are focusing on safety, environmental compliance, and equipment reliability while positioning the refinery for a successful restart once the storm passes," Phillips 66 said in a statement. "We have a reliable, detailed hurricane response plan and procedures. Non-essential personnel have been released from work ahead of the storm."
Just those six closures take off more than 2.2 million b/d in US oil refining capacity.
"Motiva Enterprises is performing shutdown activities for its Port Arthur refinery and chemical plant ahead of Hurricane Laura," Motiva said in a statement.
Motiva also said it is working to "ensure reliable fuel supply in our communities after the storm passes."
More than 50% of US refining capacity is on the coast, with PADD III refining capacity, including condensate splitters, totaling over 10 million b/d, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics. Of that, 9.6 million b/d is in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.
"Total's Port Arthur Refinery has begun an orderly shutdown of its operations in anticipation of Hurricane Laura," said spokeswoman Julia Boue in a statement.
ExxonMobil spokesman Jeremy Eikenberry said it is preparing for the storm and evacuating non-essential personnel.
"The Beaumont Refinery is operating at reduced rates and has initiated shutdown steps," Eikenberry said in a statement.
ExxonMobil also is preparing for the possible shutdown of its larger Baytown complex near Houston, but operations were continuing on Aug. 25 afternoon. A closure of the 584,000 b/d refinery would bring total refining closures from the storm to more than 2.8 million b/d of crude capacity.
"While our Baytown operations continue to run safely and reliably, preparations include precautionary measures in the event conditions worsen," Eikenberry added.
Valero also has potentially impacted refineries in Texas City and Houston, as well as in Corpus Christi and southeastern Louisiana.
"Our other Texas Gulf Coast operations continue to work through hurricane preparedness protocol that include activities such as assessing refinery operations and potential storm impact, securing equipment and ensuring we have adequate supplies available," said Valero spokeswoman Lillian Riojas in a statement. "We are monitoring the storm's path and will make other refinery operation decisions as necessary."
The refineries in Port Arthur and Beaumont were hit particularly hard by flooding three years ago from Hurricane Harvey. While Laura also should have a strong storm surge, it's expected to be more of a wind event than a major flooding storm.
The Phillips 66 closure that began late on Aug. 24 jump started a wave of closures along the epicenter of the nation's refining and petrochemical manufacturing in southeastern Texas and Louisiana.