By Erwin Seba HOUSTON, Sept 19 (Reuters) – Energy infrastructure on the U.S. Gulf Coast was hit hard by Tropical Storm Imelda on Thursday, as flooding forced a major refinery, a key oil pipeline, terminals and a ship channel in Texas to shut, according to sources familiar with operations.
Torrential rain has inundated the Gulf Coast from Houston to western Louisiana for a second straight day. The National Hurricane Center forecast the storm could drop up to 40 inches (102 cm) of rain along the southeastern coast of Texas through Thursday night.
Ship pilots stopped boarding vessels on the Beaumont, Texas, Ship Channel because of heavy weather on the waterway connecting Beaumont with the Gulf of Mexico, the U.S. Coast Guard said.
Exxon Mobil Corp shut its 369,024 barrel-per-day (bpd) Beaumont refinery, sources familiar with plant operations said.
Spokesman Jeremy Eikenberry said Exxon’s Beaumont chemical plant adjoining the refinery was safely shut on Thursday morning and that the company “continues preparations for severe weather at its Beaumont complex.”
Several other refineries in southeast Texas cut back production as well.
Valero Energy Corp reduced production at its 335,000 bpd Port Arthur refinery because flooded roadways made it impossible to haul sulfur away from the plant.
Its gasoline-producing fluidic catalytic cracker was running at 60% of its 110,000 bpd capacity because of a compressor outage at Lyondell Basell Industries 263,776 bpd Houston refinery.
Total SA cut coker production in half at its 225,500 bpd Port Arthur refinery because heavy lightning in the area made it unsafe to operate a crane used to collect petroleum coke produced by the coker.
Motiva Enterprises’ 607,000 bpd Port Arthur plant remained in production, but the largest U.S. refinery has been operating at half capacity since early September because of a planned multi-unit overhaul, sources familiar with operations said.
TC Energy Corp’s 750,000-bpd Marketlink oil pipeline from Cushing, Oklahoma, to Nederland, Texas, was also shut as flooding disrupted operations at Gulf terminals, traders familiar with the matter said.
Energy Transfer LP’s Nederland terminal, located between Beaumont and Port Arthur, was shut due to heavy rains, five market sources said.
Phillips 66 said it shut its operations at its Beaumont terminal as a safety precaution due to the flooding.
Officials at liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals in the Beaumont-Port Arthur area – Cheniere Energy Inc’s Sabine Pass in Louisiana and Sempra Energy’s Cameron in Louisiana – said they were monitoring the storms but so far had not seen any impact on operations.
Officials at Freeport LNG were not immediately available to talk about its facility in Freeport, Texas, where the storm came ashore. (Reporting by Erwin Seba in Houston, Devika Krishna Kumar and Scott DiSavino in New York and Liz Hampton in Denver; Editing by Tom Brown and Marguerita Choy)
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