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Louisiana chemical plants expecting little Barry impact

Houston — Most chemical companies in the path of Tropical Storm Barry expect to continue operating normally amid predictions of heavy rain and wind as the storm passes through Louisiana this weekend.

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Indorama Ventures shut its 440,000 mt/year steam cracker in Lake Charles, Louisiana, spokeswoman Richard Jones confirmed in an email Friday, but other major production sites aim to remain online, according to company representatives and market sources.

"Westlake will continue to monitor the situation with ... Barry, but at this time our plants in Louisiana plan to operate through the storm," Westlake Chemical spokesman Chip Swearingen said Friday in an email. Westlake, a major producer of construction staple PVC as well as polyethylene, has operations in Lake Charles in the west part of the storm's path as well as Geismar and Plaquemine alongside the Mississippi River.

Operations run by Dow Chemical in Plaquemine and Lake Charles, Sasol in Lake Charles, ExxonMobil at its Baton Rouge refining and chemical complex, and Shell in Norco and Geismar all reported normal activities on Friday.

NOVA Chemicals spokeswoman Jennifer Nanz said the company's 884,500 mt/year merchant cracker in Geismar was operating normally, and Lotte Chemical's new 700,000 monoethylene glycol plant and associated joint-venture 1 million mt/year cracker had the same status, a source familiar with company operations said. Lotte did not respond to a request for comment.

The Port of New Orleans shut down on Friday ahead of the storm's arrival, and the Port of Lake Charles aimed to shut down by late afternoon, according to their pilots associations, the groups that oversee vessel movements and safety.

The US National Weather Service said up to 20 inches of rain was expected in some areas, with winds of 30 mph to 65 mph near the center and in some bands. A storm surge watch also was in effect in southern and southeastern Louisiana that could elevate Mississippi River levels. Levees protect the city of New Orleans up to 20 feet, and NWS forecast on Friday expected water levels to remain just below that.

-- Kristen Hays,

-- Edited by Keiron Greenhalgh,