Houston — Several US chemical companies with plants in Hurricane Laura's path said initial inspections showed limited damage despite the storm's Category 4 strength on landfall.
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But restarts depend largely on the availability of electric power, which remained out in areas that bore the brunt of the storm in southwest Louisiana and far southeast Texas.
Dow Chemical said Aug. 28 that initial inspections showed its facilities in the storm's path sustained no major damage.
The company has begun restarting facilities in cities along the Houston Ship Channel, with expectations that they will be fully operational by Sep. 1. Dow's sites in Orange and Beaumont, Texas, "experienced very minor damage," and restarts "will progress as external infrastructure allows."
Dow operates an 882,000 mt/year cracker and a 236,000 mt/year low-density polyethylene plant in Orange. The Beaumont facility produces intermediate chemicals used to manufacture polyurethanes.
Chevron Phillips Chemical, Westlake Chemical, and ExxonMobil also said their facilities sustained limited damage.
"Electrical power has not yet been restored to our plants in Orange and Port Arthur, Texas, but early indications appear to show limited visible damage at these sites," Chevron Phillips Chemical spokesman Nick Facchin said in an email Aug. 28. "Essential personnel are currently surveying these sites to assess their condition and develop restart plans."
CP Chem operates a 420,000 mt/year high-density PE plant in Orange and an 855,000 mt/year cracker in Port Arthur.
Westlake operates a petrochemical complex in Lake Charles, Louisiana, which took a direct hit from the storm. The company said in a statement late Aug. 27 that initial assessments show the complex "has incurred limited physical damage," and restarts "primarily depend on the availability of electricity, industrial gases, and other feedstocks."
Westlake CEO Albert Chao said in the statement that the company did not expect any material impact from the storm.
Westlake's complex includes three chlor-alkali plants, combined capacity of 1.27 million mt/year of chlorine and 1.36 million mt/year of caustic soda; two vinyl chloride monomer plants, combined capacity of 952,543 mt/year; two crackers, combined capacity of 1.19 million mt/year; 200,000 mt/year linear low-density PE unit; a 60,000 mt/year high-density PE/LLDPE plant; a 386,000 mt/year LDPE unit; and a 258,547 mt/year styrene plant.
ExxonMobil spokeswoman Sarah Nordin said in an email Aug. 28 that inspections of the chemical facilities at the company's refining and chemical complex in Beaumont "revealed the need for only minor repairs, and we have begun restart activities. Timing on when operations can resume to normal will largely depend on the availability of power, product transportation infrastructure such as pipelines and rail lines, and the reopening of the Sabine-Neches Waterway."
ExxonMobil's Beaumont complex includes an 826,000 mt/year cracker, two LLDPE plants with capacities of 650,000 mt/year, and 325,000 mt/year; a 225,000 mt/year HDPE plant; and a 220,000 mt/year HDPE/LLDPE unit.
LyondellBasell spokeswoman Chevalier Gray said in an email Aug. 28 that the company had restarted its Houston-area plants, which include three polypropylene plants in Bayport near the mouth of the Houston Ship Channel, with a combined capacity of 1.85 million mt/year. The company planned to restart its 180,000 mt/year HDPE plant in Alvin, Texas, Aug. 29-30, she said.
LyondellBasell had no update on its Lake Charles polypropylene facilities, which sustained minimal damage, but awaited power restoration to restart.
After Hurricane Harvey drowned southeast Texas in September 2017 with unprecedented rainfall, causing widespread petrochemical outages, many plants were undamaged, but took up to a week or more to restart because they lacked power.
FACILITIES OUTSIDE HURRICANE'S PATH RESTARTING
Other facilities along the ship channel that had shut down before the storm's landfall as a precaution, were restarting Aug. 28 with facilities spared any fallout as the hurricane inched further eastward before landfall early Aug. 27.
CP Chem was restarting two crackers at its Baytown-area complex with a combined capacity of 2.5 million mt/year, while ExxonMobil was resuming normal rates at its three Baytown crackers with a combined capacity of 3.7 million mt/year, according to the companies.
INEOS USA said in a filing Aug. 27 with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality that it had begun restarting its 1.2 million mt/year Chocolate Bayou cracker in Alvin, Texas, with flaring expected to last through Sep. 1. INEOS shut down the unit Aug. 25. The company declined to comment.
Motiva Enterprises also was restarting its 635,000 mt/year cracker in Port Arthur, Texas, the company said in an Aug. 27 TCEQ filing. Flaring also was expected to stretch through Sep. 1.
In addition, TPC Group was planning to begin restarting its 544,000 mt/year butadiene unit in Houston Aug. 29, spokeswoman Sara Cronin said in an email Aug. 27.