US Gulf producers begin refinery restart processes as Isaac dissipates


HOUSTON -- The US Gulf Coast’s energy producers moved to restart refineries and restart platforms Friday as Tropical Depression Isaac petered out over the Mississippi River Valley.

The US Department of Energy said Friday some 878,000 bbl of refining capacity remained shut down, with four refineries in the area down and five operating at a reduced rate.

Two Louisiana refineries – Motiva’s 250,000 bpd Convent refinery and Placid Refining’s 57,000 bpd Port Allen facility – were in the process of restarting, the DOE said.

Marathon Petroleum said Friday its Garyville, La., refinery suffered no significant damage and has continued to operate at reduced rates.

The facility, however, “did receive a large amount of rainfall,” the company said.

Marathon plans to operate the facility at a reduced rate until “the normal crude supply logistics return” a spokesman said in a statement.

Valero said maintenance crews are in the process of assessing the Louisiana refineries it had shut down, but the facilities are not yet up and running.

Employees will return over the weekend to begin the process of restarting operations at the 125,000 bpd refinery in Meraux and the 205,000 bpd refinery in Norco, in St. Charles Parish. Valero spokesman Bill Day said there isn't yet a timetable for restarting work.

“We should have a better idea this weekend,” he said. Mr. Day had said Thursday that initial inspections did not show anything more than minor wind damage to the refineries.

Valero’s 180,000 bpd refinery in Memphis, Tenn., which had to reduce its rates due to the closing of the 1.2 million bpd Capline Pipeline bringing crude from the Gulf Coast, will now ramp up to planned rates because the pipeline reopened.

Phillips 66’s Alliance refinery in Belle Chasse, La., remained shut down and without power. The 247,000 bpd facility had some floodwater, though it is receding, a company spokesman said.

Offshore production

Nearly all of the oil production in the US Gulf of Mexico's federal waters remained offline. Production of 1.3 million bpd of oil, or 95% of the region's total, was shut in, a level similar to the one seen Thursday, the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said Friday.

Offshore natural gas outages decreased slightly to 3.1 billion cubic feet/day, or 68% of the region's normal production, down from 3.3 billion cubic feet/day on Thursday.

BP, the Gulf's largest energy producer, said it is redeploying staff to offshore facilities, and will start producing oil and gas there in the coming days.

The company said aerial surveys showed no damage to Isaac, but crews will perform closer inspections when they return.

Anadarko Petroleum said it has started the process of restaffing platforms in the eastern and central Gulf of Mexico that were evacuated ahead of Hurricane Isaac.

Employees will conduct on-site inspections at five platforms Friday, after remote monitoring systems indicated that all the company's facilities were intact.

The company said it expects to restart production as pipeline and infrastructure availability allows.

BHP Billiton said it began restaffing its Gulf of Mexico production platforms Friday. “Production will resume as soon as possible,” a spokesman said.

The DoE said Friday that about 717,848 electricity customers remain without power in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Dow Jones Newswires

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