With flooding and high winds already being felt on the U.S. Gulf Coast, plastics and petrochemical plants were shutting down preparing for a storm forecasters say could be the biggest to hit the U.S. since Katrina.
As of 2 p.m. Aug. 26, Hurricane Laura had confirmed sustained winds of 140 miles per hour. The storm's impact likely will impact inland regions beyond the coast.
The National Hurricane Center warned the storm could have an "unsurvivable storm surge" that could damage areas 30 miles inland.
It is expected to hit the region between Sea Rim State Park, Texas, and Intracoastal City, Louisiana, including Calcasieu and Sabine Lakes overnight.
ExxonMobil Chemical's site in Beaumont, Texas, "continues preparations for severe weather associated with Hurricane Laura," a company spokesman said Aug. 26. He added that the site is staffing with essential personnel only.
"Both the refinery and chemical plant are operating at reduced rates and have initiated shutdown steps," the spokesman said. He added that ExxonMobil continues to meet contractual commitments for supplying its products.
All operations were normal at ExxonMobil's production site in Baton Rouge, La., the spokesman said. The site was continuing to meet contractual commitments and was are working to protect critical equipment and supplies for its area facilities, including docks and terminal facilities in the Baton Rouge area.
"Our primary focus continues to be the safety of our employees, contractors and the community," the spokesman said. "We are reaching out to our employees and their families to confirm they remain safe."
An update from data firm PetrochemWire said that other plastics and petrochemicals firms with production sites in the path of the storm included Chevron Phillips Chemical, Flint Hills, Huntsman Corp. and Lucite.
Dow Inc. "is actively monitoring Hurricane Laura," a company spokesperson said in an email to Plastics News. The Midland, Mich.-based firm "has robust hurricane preparedness plans, and all of our sites along the Gulf Coast are activating appropriate storm preparations to ensure safe operations," the spokesperson added.
Dow's Texas sites in Sabine (Orange), Beaumont, Deer Park, Laporte, Bayport and Texas City are safely shutting down operations and reducing staffing to only essential personnel. Officials will continue to monitor the path of the storm and respond as needed at each site. Those sites include polyethylene resin production in Orange and production of polyurethanes and elastomers in Bayport.
Total Petrochemicals' refinery in Port Arthur, Texas, "has begun an orderly shutdown" of its operations in anticipation of Hurricane Laura, a company spokesperson said in an email to Plastics News.
"Our primary concern remains to ensure the safety of our people, the surrounding community, the environment and our assets," the spokesperson said. Port Arthur supplies plastics feedstocks to other Total sites in the region.
Sasol Ltd. has temporarily shut down plants in Lake Charles, La., and Houston and Winnie, Texas, a company spokesperson said in an email to Plastics News. "We are focused on the safety of our workforce, the protection of the environment and the integrity of our facilities," the spokesperson said. "We continue to work with authorities on preparations and are closely monitoring weather forecasts."
"We will continue to monitor the situation and resume operations when it is safe to do so." Sasol makes PE resin in Lake Charles.
LyondellBasell Industries also has taken steps in advance of the storm. The firm's polypropylene resin plant in Lake Charles is in the storm's projected path. media relations manager Chevalier Gray said in an email to Plastics News. "We are in the process of safely shutting down the facility," she added. "A 'ride out crew' will remain on site to ensure the safety of the plant and our assets during the storm."
Anticipated wind associated with Hurricane Laura has led LyondellBasell to shut down a resins and materials unit in Bayport. The firm's Chocolate Bayou resin plant in Alvin, Texas, also will shut down, since it's co-located with another industrial facility that plans to shut down.
LyondellBasell continues to monitor the weather conditions and will adjust plans as needed, Gray said. "As always, our primary concern is for the safety of our workers, their families, the surrounding community and the environment," she added.
Ineos Olefins & Polymers USA has placed force majeure supply limits on high density PE resins made at its complex in League City, Texas. In a letter to customers, Ineos officials said that their action was connected to "initiation of hurricane preparedness protocols" related to Hurricane Laura. Ineos also makes HDPE pipe in League City.
Indorama Ventures is closing down its plant in Port Neches, Texas, officials said in a release. Products made at that plant include PET feedstock monoethylene glycol (MEG).
Media reports said that facilities operated by ExxonMobil Chemical and Westlake Chemical in the region also were taking precautions in advance of the storm.