Chemical makers are still assessing the impact of Hurricane Ida, a powerful, Category 4 hurricane that made landfall in Louisiana on Sunday, Aug. 29, not far from one of the busiest chemical plant corridors in the US.
Dow, the largest US chemical producer, reports no major damage to its sites in Plaquemine and Hahnville, where the firm operates ethylene crackers and polyolefin plants. After shutting the plants for the storm, the company says Plaquemine should be up and running again the week of Sept. 6, contingent on utilities being restored. It’s “too soon to predict” when Hahnville will restart, Dow says.
Shell says it sustained some building damage at its complex in Norco. The company says it can’t predict when it will resume normal operations there and in Geismar.
Formosa Plastics says that damage to its Baton Rouge facility was minimal and that it is working to resume operations. Westlake Chemical says its Louisiana facilities suffered limited physical damage. Like other firms, it is waiting for utilities and raw material supplies to resume before restarting.
Laurence Alexander, a stock analyst with Jefferies Financial Group, says the hurricane came at a poor time for the chemical industry. “Aggravating the impact are lingering outages that resulted from the winter storm in February,” he writes in a note to clients.
Winter storm Uri and a subsequent damaging freeze in Texas knocked out 80% of US olefin capacity in February. It has taken months for the industry to recover from the unprecedented cold snap.Environmentalists, who call the Louisiana coastal region Cancer Alley because of its many refineries and chemical plants, have been warning that Ida would lead to chemical discharges.Indeed, companies reported several incidents to Louisiana’s Department of Environmental Protection. For example, flaring and loss of power led to the release of “products and by-products” from Dow’s Hahnville site. Fertilizer makers CF Industries, Koch Nitrogen, and Mosaic all reported ammonia emissions. Shintech reported a discharge of ethylene dichloride. And Cornerstone Chemical said a molten sulfur tank may have been struck by lightning.