Less than a month after being hit by Hurricane Katrina, plastics and chemicals plants on the Gulf Coast are bracing for Hurricane Rita.
Rita is expected to hit the Texas coast late Sept. 23 or early Sept. 24. Cities including Galveston and Corpus Christi, as well as parts of Houston, are being evacuated. The storm originally was expected to hit squarely on the Texas coast, but as of 10 a.m. Sept. 23, it had turned slightly to the east. The change of direction means it could miss major refining and petrochemical sections of Texas, but could place parts of Louisiana in jeopardy.
Major amounts of North American resin capacity are located on the Texas coast. Dow Chemical Co. has large capacities for polyethylene and polypropylene in Freeport, while ExxonMobil Chemical Co. operates large PP works in Baytown and PE manufacturing in Mont Belvieu and Beaumont.
On Sept. 21, Dow already was in the process of closing down its Freeport site, as well as plastics and chemical operations in Deer Park, La Porte, Seadrift and other locations.
ExxonMobil had taken similar shutdown steps in Baytown, as well as at a refinery in Beaumont. As of Sept. 21, the firm had evacuated almost 500 employees from the area.
Huntsman Corp. has closed plants at five Texas locations making a variety of petrochemical products, including plastic feedstocks.
Basell Polyolefins has closed its PP plant in Bayport, sales and marketing vice president Donald Drummond said in a Sept. 22 letter to customers.
Sunoco Inc. also has shuttered its PP plants in Bayport and La Porte. In a Sept. 22 news release, company officials said the firm ``expects supply and logistics for polypropylene to be disrupted ... for some extended period of time.''
Other firms with major plastics sites in the storm's path include:
* DuPont Co., with engineering and specialty plastics production in Freeport.
* Formosa Plastics Corp. USA, with PE, PP and PVC production in Point Comfort.
* Bayer Material Sciences, with polycarbonate works in Baytown.
* Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. LP, with PE, PP and K-Resin styrenic block copolymer production in Pasadena; PE in Port Arthur, Orange and Baytown; and polyphenylene sulfide compounding in La Porte.
* British Petroleum plc's Innovene unit, with PE works in Deer Park and Baytown and PP works in Alvin.
* Equistar Chemicals LP, with PE production in Matagorda, Victoria, La Porte and Alvin.
* BASF Corp., with a nylon resin plant in Freeport.
* Shintech Inc., with a major PVC plant in Freeport.
* Total Petrochemicals USA Inc., with a PE plant in Bayport.