US Gulf Production Starts to Recover Post Harvey
Petrochemical plants on the US Gulf Coast are starting to resume operations after Hurricane Harvey left behind a trail of destruction. Refineries and chemical plants had been shut down prior to Harvey making landfall on the Texas coast on Aug. 25. This year has seen an unusually active hurricane season in the Atlantic with Jose, Irma and Maria following in Harvey’s wake.
UK-based information company IHS Markit estimates that as of Sept. 19, 15 out of 20 affected refineries were at or near normal operating rates. In addition, most base chemical assets had either restarted or were in the process of restarting.
About 10% of total US ethylene production remained offline and IHS Markit expects that new ethylene plants that were planned to go online during the next six months will be delayed. In addition, with the exception of two crackers, all propylene assets are anticipated to be back to pre-storm levels by the end of September.
All PP units affected by the hurricane have resumed operations and all US Gulf styrene producers were running normally, with the exception of LyondellBasell, according to IHS Markit.
On Sept. 15, ExxonMobil said that it was progressing restarts of its Baytown and Beaumont refineries and it had resumed normal operation at its Baytown olefins plant and nearby Mont Belvieu plastics facility. A restart of the chemical plant at Beaumont was ongoing and the lubricants unit was back online.
Operations at Huntsman’s manufacturing sites in Freeport and Houston have resumed, while plants at Chocolate Bayou, Conroe, Dayton and Port Neches were in various stages of start-up as of Sept. 8. The company, which is in the middle of merging with Swiss specialty chemicals manufacturer Clariant, estimates that its final loss from Hurricane Harvey will be in the range of $35-40 million.
WR Grace’s production facilities in Pasadena, Texas, and Lake Charles and Norco in Louisiana, are said to be running normally and Enterprise Products has resumed operations at its Mont Belvieu site that houses several fractionators and propylene splitters.
Dow Chemical has restarted some of its units at Seadrift and Shell Chemicals said on Sept. 14 that it was in the process of bringing back its Deer Park refinery and chemical units. Covestro is also reported to be ramping up production at its Baytown and Channelview complexes. Chevron Phillips Chemical (CPChem) was said to be restoring operations at Sweeny last week while many of its Texas sites including Conroe, Orange, Port Arthur and Pasadena have restarted.
Oxo-products supplier Oxea has announced the successful restart of its complexes in Bay City and Bishop, Texas, although units are not yet running at full capacity. The company is currently building a new propanol unit (Propanol 2) at Bay City for completion next year. “Except for a slight schedule delay, the Propanol 2 project suffered very little impact from Hurricane Harvey,” said Markus Heuwes, Propanol 2 project director at Oxea.
Despite Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) said its Chemical Activity Barometer (CAB) remained virtually unchanged in September, registering a slip of 0.04% from August. However, it cautioned that future revisions to this month’s data were likely.
Compared with September 2016, the three-month moving average CAB measure is up 2.8%, representing a “marked pullback” from recent year-on-year gains, the ACC said.
The CAB is a macroeconomic indicator that is designed to highlight the peaks and troughs in the US economy.