More than two weeks after Hurricane Ida made landfall nearly a quarter of industrial sites in the Baton Rouge and New Orleans area remain idle, while more than half are beginning to restart operations.
Local industrial membership organization The Greater Baton Rouge Industry Alliance surveyed companies in the stretch between Baton Rouge and New Orleans twice after Hurricane Ida to gauge the impact and recovery. There were 40 different companies that responded to the survey.
All businesses which responded halted operations before the storm and took preventative measures, such as moving materials from railcars to storage tanks, pausing raw material shipments and relocating barges up the Mississippi River.
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Almost 80% of the industrial group's members were not operational in the days following the storm. Ida knocked out power for about a million residential and commercial customers across the state, including more than of 60% of respondents.
Of the companies still not operational, some of the reason for delays included lack of nitrogen and other raw materials, being short staffed and equipment damage. Most of the damage was structural such as missing insulation, roofs or towers. Some had trouble securing enough diesel to run generators.
Additional barriers to reopening included high demand for electrical parts, a lack of hotel rooms for contractors, a shortage of gasoline and a lack of truck drivers. As most petrochemical plants that rely on each other were in the process of restarting, companies have been declaring force majeure for some feedstock, which means they can't fulfill a customer contract.
For example, Occidental Chemical Corp., Shintech and Westlake Chemical all declared force majeure for their main products days after the storm.
As of Wednesday, there were still two unidentified crude oil refineries in Louisiana shut down. Those refineries typically produce 500,000 barrels each day, or roughly 3% of U.S. capacity, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Four refineries were already operational while the remaining three were in the restart process such as Valero's St. Charles and Meraux facilities.
"Full restoration of normal refinery output will take two to three weeks after the passage of Ida, although restart timelines in New Orleans may take longer due to storm damage and ongoing power supply issues," the energy department said
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Phillips 66 temporarily shuttered its Belle Chasse refinery and the storm damage may prompt the company to idle the operation, people familiar with the situation told Bloomberg. As of last week the company didn't have a timeline for restarting.
Marathon Petroleum Corp was idled due to the storm but began starting operations last week, including its gasoline terminal.
The ExxonMobil Refinery and Chemical Complex was still somewhat operational, but not at full capacity days after Ida. The Baton Rouge complex did not have any significant damages due to the storm and has restarted operations.