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Lake Charles petrochemical plants remain shut pending power restoration

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Lake Charles petrochemical plants remain shut pending power restoration

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Sasol says Hurricane Laura's winds damaged cooling towers

Houston — Chemical plants in Lake Charles, Louisiana, remained shut Aug. 31 in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura, amid widespread power outages, ongoing damage assessments and evacuated employees unable to return home as crews worked to clean up the damage.

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Both Westlake Chemical and Sasol declared force majeure Aug. 31 on some of the products manufactured at their Lake Charles complexes, according to customer letters that S&P Global Platts obtained.

"At this time, we are not able to predict the duration of this force majeure condition. This force majeure condition will cause supply disruptions and limit our ability to meet anticipated product demand," Westlake's letter said in declaring force majeure on construction staple polyvinyl chloride and its upstream precursor, vinyl chloride monomer. Westlake does not produce PVC at the Lake Charles complex, but the pair of VCM units at the site make up 38% of the company's US VCM output.

Sasol's letter, which declared force majeure on polyethylene, including linear low density and high density, noted that many of its employees and contractors who evacuated Lake Charles were unable to return home as of Aug. 31. The company, which initially said its site had not been flooded, was continuing damage assessments and evaluating a potential restart schedule.

LyondellBasell, and Lotte Chemical, which also have Lake Charles operations affected by the storm, were continuing damage assessments as well and had yet to disclose further details or restart plans. The Port of Lake Charles also remained closed Aug. 31 pending channel damage assessments.

Entergy, which provides power in southwestern Louisiana and southeastern Texas, showed extensive power outages in Lake Charles as well as petrochemical centers in far southeastern Texas, such as Orange, according to the outage map on its website.

"The storm resulted in widespread electrical blackouts and other damage, preventing Sasol from operating most utility systems, "Sasol said in a statement posted earlier Aug. 31 on its website. "High voltage transmission line corridors into the Lake Charles area are damaged, and the full assessment is still in progress by a local power company."

Sasol said restarts of the plants "will depend on the availability of electricity, industrial gases, other feedstocks, and the restoration process. We are engaging with our customers and suppliers regularly regarding the impacts on production."

HURRICANE LAURA DAMAGED SASOL'S COOLING TOWERS

Sasol also said the storm's high winds, which reached 150 mph upon landfall early Aug. 27, damaged cooling towers at the Lake Charles complex.

Sasol's complex, including a new $12.9 billion expansion, includes 1.5 million mt/year and 439,000 mt/year crackers; a 470,000 mt/year LLDPE unit; a 380,000 mt/year ethylene oxide/monoethylene glycol plant; and a new 420,000 mt/year LDPE plant that had been slated to start up in September.

The LDPE plant was undergoing commissioning in January when a fire prompted a lengthy shutdown for repairs.

Westlake spokeswoman Erika Soechting said in an email earlier Aug. 31, before the company's FM letter circulated, that the company's Lake Charles assets "incurred limited physical damage" and restarts "will primarily depend upon the availability of electricity, industrial gases, and other feedstocks."

Sources familiar with company operations said later Aug. 31 that further assessments had revealed wind damage to be more serious than initially thought hours after the storm had passed.

Westlake's Lake Charles complex includes three chlor-alkali plants, with combined capacity of 1.27 million mt/year of chlorine and 1.36 million mt/year of caustic soda; two vinyl chloride monomer plants, with combined capacity of 952,543 mt/year; two crackers, with combined capacity of 1.19 million mt/year; a 200,000 mt/year LLDPE unit; a 60,000 mt/year HDPE/LLDPE unit; a 386,000 mt/year LDPE plant and a 258,547 mt/year styrene unit.

LyondellBasell's Lake Charles assets include 400,000 mt/year and 1 million mt/year polypropylene plants.

Lotte Chemical in Lake Charles operates a 1 million mt/year joint-venture cracker, nearly half-owned by Westlake, and a 700,000 mt/year MEG plant.