Refiners from Corpus Christi, Texas, to Louisiana were working furiously to prepare for Hurricane Harvey which is packing winds of up to 130 miles per hour, and threatening "unprecedented" flooding, according to forecasters.
The storm on Friday had shut 4.4 percent of U.S. oil processing capacity, causing by one estimate a week`s worth of product supply constraints. But up to a quarter of the nation`s refining output lies in the path of the major Gulf Coast storm, according to current forecasts.
Refining staff were busy securing loose equipment, piling sandbags within plants and reviewing procedures for a shutdown if they became necessary, sources familiar with plant operations said on Friday.
Ride-out crews, who are specially trained to remain during storms, are hunkered down in control rooms monitoring systems at the Citgo Petroleum Corp [PDVSAC.UL], Flint Hills Resources [FHR.UL] and Valero Energy Corp`s
Since 2005 when hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf Coast, refiners have been hardening their plants to better sustain and recover from storms. For example, Phillips 66
Most refiners also have generators on raised platforms several feet off the ground or stationed off-site to provide power for repairs and to make preparations to restart after a loss of power.
But Katrina and Rita proved back-up equipment was not the only issue. Refineries near New Orleans were disrupted after several feet of water poured onto their properties.
Rita also took what was then BP Plc`s
Like the BP plant, refineries are most often shut after a hurricane by loss of utilities or supply systems.
On Thursday, LyondellBasell Industries reduced production at its Houston refinery to conserve crude oil supplies, sources said, in anticipation of the closure of the Houston Ship Channel. The channel was closed to vessel traffic on Friday.
Lyondell returned production to full on Friday afternoon after finding an additional supply of crude, the sources said.
To conserve its available crude, Marathon Petroleum Corp