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FACTBOX: Ida forces petrochemical shutdowns along Mississippi River

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FACTBOX: Ida forces petrochemical shutdowns along Mississippi River

Petrochemical production centers along the Mississippi River from New Orleans to Baton Rouge were shut down before Hurricane Ida slammed into Louisiana Aug. 29, packing 150 mph winds expected to wreak havoc on already tight supplies for weeks.

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Westlake Chemical shut its polyvinyl chloride complexes in Plaquemine and Geismar ahead of Ida's landfall as a Category 4 storm on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's arrival in New Orleans.

"In advance of Hurricane Ida, both the Geismar and Plaquemine plants were safely shut down," Westlake spokeswoman Erika Soechting said in an email Aug. 29.

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Other chemical shutdowns included ExxonMobil's and Formosa Plastics USA's facilities in Baton Rouge, as well as complexes and plants south of Louisiana's capitol city along the river operated by Dow Chemical, Shintech, NOVA Chemical Shell, Olin and OxyChem, the chemical division of Occidental Petroleum, according to sources familiar with company operations.

The companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

About 6.53 million mt/year, or 16%, of 40.5 million mt/year of US ethylene capacity was shut down, as was more than 5 million mt/year, or 21%, of US polyethylene capacity of 24 million mt/year.

However, products in the production chain for construction staple polyvinyl chloride were hit harder than most given the concentration of those operations along the Mississippi River, with 41% of 8.29 million mt/year of US PVC production offline.

The petrochemical outages could be lengthy if Ida's winds damage facilities and power outages linger for days or weeks.

Rob Stier, senior manager of global petrochemical analytics, said chlorovinyls were expected to see the most extensive fallout because supply throughout the production chain, from chlorine and caustic soda to PVC, has been tight since hurricanes Laura and Delta battered Lake Charles, Louisiana, in August and October of 2020.

Those tight supply conditions were exacerbated by a mid-February deep freeze that forced widespread weeks-long petrochemical shutdowns along the US Gulf Coast and much of the inland US.

"More chlorovinyls outages will exacerbate the already tight market for all these products, including PVC," Stier said.

Chlorine is the first link in the PVC production chain and caustic soda, a byproduct of chlorine production, is a key feedstock for alumina and pulp and paper industries.

He also said US propylene supply also is tight, with pricing hitting demand destruction levels near $1/lb. While none of the three US propane dehydrogenation plants are in Louisiana, any reduction in refinery or ethylene cracker coproduct propylene supply "will just make matters worse," Stier said.

Here is a rundown of fallout in Louisiana from Ida's assault on Aug. 29:

SHUTDOWNS

Baton Rouge

**ExxonMobil chemical complex: 1 million mt/year cracker; 400,000 mt/year HDPE; 400,000 mt/year LDPE; 900,000 mt/year LLDPE; 410,000 mt/year polypropylene

**Formosa Plastics USA: 513,000 mt/year PVC; 653,000 mt/year vinyl chloride monomer

Plaquemine

**Dow Chemical: 1 million mt/year and 500,000 mt/year crackers; 750,000 mt/year HDPE; 184,000 mt/year and 350,000 mt/year LDPE; 544,000 mt/year LLDPE

**Shintech: 500,000 mt/year cracker; 600,000 mt/year PVC; 1.77 million mt/year VCM; 2 million mt/year ethylene dichloride; 1.16 million mt/year chlorine; 1.28 million mt/year caustic soda

**Westlake Chemical: 861,826 mt/year PVC; 725,747 mt/year VCM; 1.15 million mt/year EDC; 426,376 mt/year chlorine; 453,592 mt/year caustic soda

**Olin: 850,000 mt/year chlorine; 934,066 mt/year caustic soda

Geismar

**Westlake Chemical: 520,000 mt/year PVC; 625,000 mt/year EDC; 317,514 mt/year chlorine; 349,266 mt/year caustic soda

**NOVA Chemical: 977,000 mt/year cracker

**OxyChem: 315,000 mt/year EDC

Taft

**Dow Chemical: 750,000 mt/year HDPE; 800,000 mt/year LLDPE

Norco

**Shell Chemical: 625,000 mt/year and 930,000 mt/year crackers

St. Gabriel

**Olin: 250,000 mt/year chlorine; 274,725 mt/year caustic soda

PRICES

**US spot propylene prices were last assessed Aug. 27 at 98.75 cents/lb FOB USG, the highest level since prices reached $1.02/lb on Feb. 24, down from $1.25/lb on Feb. 23, an all-time high since S&P Global Platts began assessing the market in 1998.

**US export PVC prices were last assessed Aug. 25 at $1,675/mt FAS Houston, up $75/mt from the prior week on tight supply. PVC prices reached $1,800/mt FAS March 24, an all-time high since Platts began assessing the market in 1983, in the aftermath of the freeze.