Though initial assessments show limited hurricane damage to the petrochemical hub around Lake Charles, the area's port suffered significant damage, with the road to recovery being dictated by electricity outages, and for some plants by a fire at one nearby chemical plant.
The Port of Lake Charles was running a small command center on generators as of Friday afternoon, waiting for insurance adjusters to arrive this weekend.
"As far as the port properties go, it's pretty devastating," said Port Director Richard Self. "It's going to put us down for a while."
Hurricane Laura damaged transit sheds, roofs, and ship loaders and unloaders used for petroleum coke. The full extent of damage has not been assessed because there is no power.
"The ship loader has been significantly damaged. It's leaning over the edge of the docks," Self said. "We have rail cars that are stored on the port track just blown over from the wind."
There's even an oil rig blocking the Calcasieu shipping channel a few miles offshore that its operator will have to remove to allow vessel traffic.
"We still need to survey the channel before they allow it to be reopened," Self said. "We're very resilient; we'll be back operational as quickly as possible. We've got the resources to recover from this."
Ports across the nation have reached out to help, he said.
The exact conditions of the Port of Cameron Parish was not known. Aerial footage from self-described "storm chasers" showed many facilities around the port with some damage and some flooding. Attempts to reach officials at Seacor Marine and Halliburton operations at the Port of Cameron Parish were unsuccessful.
A chemical fire at a BioLab facility was "brought under control" Friday and the site secured, but hampered nearby plants' access to begin remediation and recovery efforts, among them the Phillips 66 crude oil refinery.
"Timelines for operational restarts are largely dependent on assessment impacts and access to electricity and other utilities in the region," Phillips 66 said.
"The power distribution damage is prohibiting power to any facilities that do not have their own generation," said Jim Rock, head of the Lake Area Industry Alliance, who is still waiting for damage assessment reports from member plants. "The shelter in place from the BioLab incident is hampering some site assessments."
Federal safety and regulatory officials with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said they had not had any reports of hazardous material leaks at liquefied natural gas facilities or petrochemical facilities in Louisiana as of Friday.
During hurricanes with high winds, damage to cooling towers at petrochemical sites are most common, Rock said.
Much of the recovery depends on the availability of contractors to do the repairs and maintenance, he said.
Venture Global LNG said its site under construction "sustained minimal impacts" from Hurricane Laura and a "walk-through" inspection of most areas showed that hurricane-proofing efforts, such as a storm surge perimeter wall and stormwater pumping system, performed as designed.
Venture Global hired Kiewit Louisiana Co. to "promptly and safely regain access to the project site and supporting facilities and restore utilities."
Along the Texas-Louisiana border on the Gulf Coast, Cheniere Energy's Sabine Pass LNG idled its liquefied natural gas export terminal before the storm and a report on any damages was not available.
Cameron LNG, which sits about 18 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico, said crews were on site Friday and damage assessment is expected to continue for a few days.
"Our focus is to secure the site, address any safety hazards, and assess the integrity of the facility," the company said. "When the assessment is complete, we can progress a timeline of activities to restart operations."
In Lake Charles, Citgo Petroleum Corp. said it had no "safety issues or hydrocarbon releases" from Hurricane Laura. The refinery did sustain some wind damage and the company is conducting a more detailed assessment that is projected to take a few days. There is no immediate timeline of when the refinery might restart operations.
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