Photo credit: Callaghan O’Hare / Bloomberg
Most of Southeast Texas’ major oil and gas operations evacuated workers and prepared for plant closures on Tuesday ahead of the impending arrival of Hurricane Laura Thursday.
Motiva and Valero began downsizing their Port Arthur operations and continued shutdown processes on Tuesday as the city and most of Jefferson County saw forecasts of hurricane-force winds and severe water levels. ‘storm surges.
Valero confirmed in an email to The Enterprise that most of the staff would be leaving the Port Arthur plant by the end of the day and that they were working with emergency authorities to monitor the situation, but that he always made decisions about his other coastal operations.
“Our other Texas Gulf Coast operations continue to operate under a hurricane preparedness protocol that includes activities such as assessing refining operations and the potential impact of storms, securing equipment, and warranty. that we have adequate supplies available, ”wrote Lillian Riojas, a spokesperson for Valero, in an email. “We are monitoring the path of the storm and will make further decisions regarding the operation of the refinery if necessary.”
Under normal conditions, the Valero facility is capable of refining up to 335,000 barrels per day.
Exxon Mobil has taken similar steps for its chemical plant and refinery in Beaumont after cutting production on Monday in anticipation of a possible shutdown.
The Beaumont refinery has a levee and other designs to protect it, but the company said it was not taking any risk to staff safety given the wind forecasts and storm surge estimates.
“We are reaching out to our employees and their families to confirm that they remain safe,” Nakisha Burns, spokesperson for Exxon Mobil Beaumont, wrote in an email. “We have communicated the Mandatory Evacuation Order from Jefferson County to all employees and are only staffing essential on site.”
The 366,000 barrels per day capacity of the Beaumont refinery makes it one of the largest operations in North America, just below Motiva.
Exxon Mobil experienced a similar situation last year when it temporarily shut down its Beaumont refinery due to flooding from Tropical Depression Imelda.
Motiva and Chevron Phillips Chemical in Orange reported flaring activity through the Southeast Texas Alert Network (STAN) on Tuesday morning as it prepared for the storm.
Laura is forcing companies to temporarily halt around 82% of oil production and 57% of natural gas production in the Gulf, according to an Home Office office that oversees offshore oil and gas production.
Workers were evacuated from 281 production platforms, or nearly half of the 643 platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. Of the 26 drilling platforms in the Gulf, 17 have been evacuated or moved from the path of the storm, the department said on Monday. Tens of thousands of offshore workers are employed in the Gulf.
In southern Jefferson County, two liquid natural gas export facilities under construction at Sabine Pass have decided to empty workers and secure sites before the storm.
Sempra LNG evacuated project workers from Port Arthur LNG to Sabine Pass and prepared Cameron LNG in Louisiana to weather the storm.
In an email to the Company, company officials said all equipment at the Port Arthur LNG construction site had been moved to higher grounds and staff had been evacuated.
The company still plans to operate its facilities across the border in Hackberry, Louisiana, but only with the most essential staff.
“For Cameron LNG, the facility will continue to operate with a troubleshooting team comprised of essential operating personnel,” Sempra LNG representatives wrote in an email. “All non-essential employees and contractors have been advised to work safely from their home or other location.”
The output of the liquid natural gas export facility will be significantly reduced while operating with limited staff.
Port Arthur LNG is still awaiting a final investment decision ahead of construction, which is slated for next year, but crews have been working to move part of Texas 87 around the proposed location of the facility to help lay the site basics.
Sempra LNG reported that the Cameron LNG facility was designed to withstand Category 5 hurricane force winds and was raised above the region’s historic major flood level.
Golden Pass LNG has taken a similar step to evacuate crews from its Sabine Pass export terminal as it prepares for what could be a multi-day work stoppage.
The company reported clearing barges from the unloading facility, lowering pile platforms, closing all openings in its dike to enclose the site, and adding additional rock shielding to its perimeter.
The company had originally planned to keep a small team of workers at the facility to monitor the situation and carry out an emergency “dewatering”, but decided later today on Tuesday to fire all site personnel.
“Golden Pass plans to shut down the site on Tuesday and Wednesday (and possibly Thursday depending on the impact of Hurricane Laura),” company officials wrote in a statement.
Golden Pass LNG is a joint venture between Qatar Petroleum and Exxon Mobil which is in the midst of a multi-year process to convert the facility into an export terminal to deliver liquid natural gas to overseas markets.
The company said it was in frequent communication with staff to review storm preparedness guidelines and that it was working in tandem with its contractor, CCZJV (Chiyoda, McDermott and Zachry).
Sabine Pass has been placed under a storm surge warning by the National Weather Service since about Monday. The latest NWS forecast predicted the possibility of 9 to 13 feet in isolated coastal areas of southern Jefferson County.
Paul Takahashi and LM Sixel contributed to this report.
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