Hurricane Rita idles refineries, oil and gas output

Bob Tippee

HOUSTON, Sept. 25 -- Twenty US refineries, all Gulf of Mexico oil production, and 75% of the gulf's gas output are idle the day after Hurricane Rita pounded ashore east of the Texas—Louisiana border early Sept. 24.

Shut down on Sept. 25 because of Rita or Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall between New Orleans and Gulfport, Miss., on Aug. 29, are 5.6 million b/d of refining capacity, 1.5 million b/d of oil production, and 10 bcfd of natural gas output.

That's roughly one third of the country's refining capacity, a fourth of its oil production, and a fifth of its gas output.

Much of the shut down production and processing equipment will have sustained no or minor damage and will be back online as soon as companies complete assessments and get workers back in place. Extent of the more lasting effects won't be known for at least several days.

Whatever its size and duration, Rita's disruption to US oil and gas supplies comes while oil and gas markets are still reeling from Katrina. Although public attention has been riveted on the immediate increase in gasoline prices, another challenge looms: wintertime supplies of natural gas and distillate heating oil.

Rita's aftermath
In the wake of Rita, nine of the idle refineries, representing a total of 2.3 million b/d of distillation capacity, are in the Houston and Texas City areas and are unlikely to have received much damage from the storm, which until a northward turn on Sept. 23 seemed headed directly for the Houston-Galveston area.

Four of the disabled refineries, three in Louisiana and one in Mississippi with a total of nearly 900,000 b/d of capacity, are Katrina victims, thought still to be weeks away from restart.

The remaining facilities are in areas most heavily damaged by Hurricane Rita and await assessments. In Texas they include plants operated by Motiva Enterprises LLC, 285,000 b/d, Total SA, 233,500 b/d, and Valero Energy, 255,000 b/d, in Port Arthur and Exxon Mobil Corp., 285,000 b/d, in Beaumont. In Louisiana, refineries in Rita's path are around Lake Charles: Citgo Petroleum Corp., 324,300 b/d, Conoco Phillips, 239,400 b/d, and Calcasieu Refining Co., 30,000 b/d.

Four refineries with capacities totaling about 675,000 b/d around Corpus Christi are operating at reduced rates but resuming normal operations, according to the Department of Energy. Capacities reported here are from DOE.

In addition to the refinery outages, the Seaway Crude Pipeline is shut down, and the Capline, which carries crude from the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port to Houston and the Midwest, is operating at 75% capacity. LOOP suspended offshore operations.

DOE reported that the Dixie, Explorer, Colonial, Longhorn, Magellan, and TEPPCO product pipelines are shut down or operating with various degrees of disruption. The Plantation products line is working, having suffered no effects from Rita.

The Texas ports at Houston, Freeport, Port Arthur, and Corpus Christi are closed. Petrochemical plants along the Texas coast also are closed.

Most of the more than 60 gas treatment and processing plants in the area threatened by Rita, from New Mexico to Alabama, had been shut down prior to the storm's landfall, according to DOE.

Most gas pipelines in the region also are idle because of the loss of gas supply.

Contact Bob Tippee at

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