Hurricane Ike idles 21% of US refining capacity

By OGJ editors
HOUSTON, Sept. 12 -- Even before its center made landfall on the Texas Gulf Coast, wide-bodied Hurricane Ike knocked out more of American refining capacity than did its predecessor less than 2 weeks earlier.

As the Category 2 hurricane approached the coast with wind speeds as high as 105 mph, threatening storm surge of at least 25 ft in key refining centers, 13 refineries representing 3.6 million b/d of combined capacity shut down from Port Arthur to Corpus Christ, Tex.

That's 21% of US refining capacity totaling 17.45 million b/d.

The last of the refineries idled by Hurricane Gustav, the center of which went ashore near Morgan City, La., on Sept. 1, was just returning to operation when refineries began closing in advance of Hurricane Ike.

Capacity idled by Hurricane Gustav totaled 2.1 million b/d (OGJ Online, Sept. 1, 2008). No major damage resulted from that storm.

Hurricane Ike poses a greater threat because of the storm surge associated with it. The problem became evident hours before the storm made landfall as most of Galveston Island flooded.

Refinery closures affected 922.5 million b/d of capacity in the Port Arthur area, 2.34 million b/d in the Houston-Galveston area, and 288,100 b/d in the Flint Hills Resources refinery in Corpus Christi.

To ease product-supply and logistics problems likely to follow a second blow to US product supply, the US Environmental Protection Agency waived volatility limits and ethanol-content requirements for much of the southern US from Texas eastward.

Most crude oil, product, and natural gas pipelines originating in the Gulf of Mexico and on the Gulf Coast were shut down or subjected to reduced throughputs.

By midday Sept. 12, the DOE office had confirmed shutdown of 20 gas processing plants in the path of Hurricane Ike representing 3.8 bcfd of capacity. But it said 38 gas plants were in the storm's path, with capacities totaling 7.3 MMcfd.

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