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Sasol expects to restart Louisiana complex by mid-October


Initial assessments show moderate cooling tower damage, no major process equipment damage apparent

Full load electric power restoration needed for comprehensive damage assessment of systems

Houston — Sasol expects to restart crackers and downstream derivative units at its Lake Charles, Louisiana, complex by early- to mid-October once full load power is restored, the company said Sept. 21 in a notice on its website.

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"The Sasol Lake Charles site is currently partially energized," the company said. Regional power provider Entergy "expects full load service, industrial-level reliability power, to be available to Sasol and other industrial customers in the area by early- to mid-October."

Sasol added that it had finished damage assessments of all 14 manufacturing units and associated utilities and infrastructure at the complex, which was shut ahead of Hurricane Laura's Aug. 27 assault. Lake Charles took a direct hit from the Category 4 storm, which came ashore Aug. 27 packing 150 mph winds.

Sasol said those assessments found moderate wind damage to cooling towers and some insulation and building damage, but no apparent damage to major process equipment, utilities and infrastructure.

"This will need to be confirmed once site electrical power is completely restored and all systems are tested," the company said. "The critical path for operational restart is the re-establishment of reliable external electrical power service from Entergy."

Sasol's Lake Charles complex includes 1.5 million mt/year and 439,000 mt/year crackers; a 470,000 mt/year linear low density polyethylene plant; a 380,000 mt/year ethylene oxide/monoethylene glycol unit; and a new 420,000 mt/year low density PE plant slated to start up in September. The company issued a force majeure declaration on North American PE.

Sasol said Sept. 21 the new LDPE plant, which had been slated to start up in early 2020 before it was damaged by fire during commissioning in January, did not sustain any significant storm impacts. The company has resumed commissioning the plant, the last of the new units in the company's $12.8 billion Lake Charles expansion, and expects to begin startup once power is fully restored at the site.

Other Lake Charles producers await full restoration of power

Other Lake Charles chemical manufacturers also were waiting for full restoration of power to comprehensively assess damage and begin restarting units.

Westlake Chemical's Lake Charles complex has 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 a combined capacity of 952,543 mt/year; a 1.8 million mt/year ethylene dichloride plant; two crackers with a combined capacity of 1.19 million mt/year; a 200,000 mt/year LLDPE unit; a 60,000 mt/year high density PE/LLDPE facility; a 386,000 mt/year LDPE plant; and a 258,547 mt/year styrene unit.

Westlake declared force majeure on Aug. 31 for PE as well as VCM and downstream PVC.

Westlake has said the company expects to resume some production by late September and reach full output by early October, but a source familiar with company operations said full power must be restored to enable a comprehensive damage assessment of all systems.

Lotte Chemical's 1 million mt/year joint-venture cracker; 700,000 mt/year MEG plant also remain shut, as do LyondellBasell's 400,000 mt/year and 1 million mt/year polypropylene plants in Lake Charles.

Sasol also said the company's more than 800 Lake Charles employees were safe, though hundreds sustained significant damage to their homes and remain in temporary housing while awaiting restoration of electric power and repairs.

The company said regular employee work shifts have resumed, and several hundred contractors were working on site to expedite readiness for startup.