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Severe storms and tornadoes hit petrochemical plants in the United States

25 Jan 2023 13:46 IST
Powerful storms rocked the Gulf Coast on Tuesday that swept across the greater Houston area and caused severe damage to the petrochemical and resin manufacturing plants across the north of the industrial cities in the United States. The government’s weather forecasting agency - National Weather Service- issued a warning about severe storms and tornadoes through other major industrial hubs in the United States as well in the coming days.

Large petrochemical companies such as LyondellBassell, Dow, and ExxonMobil have either large manufacturing facilities or headquarters in Houston. Reports said that a number of these facilities have been impacted because of the intermittent occurrence of storms or tornadoes in this industrial hub of the United States. The present occurrence has also been feared to have damaged several plants and manufacturing facilities including that of the petrochemical industry.

According to reports, these petrochemical companies have started repairing work at their manufacturing locations. Although preliminary estimate suggests no major destructions caused by the present storms and tornadoes, yet the final assessment of the damage is yet to be ascertained.

Leading petrochemical companies in Houston


Turnover as in 2021 (US$, billion)







ExxonMobil Chemical Co


Air Products & Chemicals Inc


The Mosaic Co


Sources: Companies

Reparative measures
In the aftermath of the damage caused by the storms and tornadoes, TotalEnergies took urgent measures and called on the service team. According to reports, the company has reduced flaring significantly after storms and tornadoes disrupted plant service in an unusual manner. The process upset reported at the plant, has been controlled by the service team.

A process upset was witnessed at Braskem La Porte which resulted in a partial shutdown of the plant. The controlled shutdown was, however, partly restored. The company is working to resolve the issue on priority, and the flaring gradually is improving which could be noticeable shortly. Other companies including PEMEX, Shell, and Dow Chemical Deer Parks also reported process upsets that occurred due to the storms and tornadoes. Now, these plants are experiencing operational upsets with flaring events. These companies, however, have not issued any statement till the time of filing this report.

Price rise
The supply interruptions due to weather-related incidents resulted in a sharp increase in the prices of polyethylene as suppliers took advantage of the disruptions. The storms/tornadoes that occurred on Tuesday resulted in a polyethylene price increase of US$ 0.02-0.06/lb for both January and February delivery.

Propylene suppliers also raised their product prices by US$0.03/lb to take advantage of the supply disturbances. For the January delivery, monomer prices are hovering around US$0.10/lb higher than its earlier quote. Unfortunately, polymer production in the United States has already been reduced since December immediately after the occurrence of Winter Storm Elliot, which caused PE and PP producers to announce force majeure at their respective plants.

According to reports, PE producers including Chevron Philips, Ineos, and PP manufacturers such as Pinnacle Polymers have already declared force majeure at their respective plants across the United States due to unfavourable weather conditions.

Weather warnings
The National Weather Service, on Tuesday, issued weather-related warnings to the US citizen. According to the agency, a developing storm across the western Gulf Coast Tuesday afternoon will be pushing northeastward tonight into the Lower Mississippi Valley, through the Ohio Valley and Lower Lakes on Wednesday, and into the northeast by early Thursday. This storm will be multi-faceted and have significant impacts across a large portion of the nation from the Gulf coast to the northeast. A well-defined area of precipitation Tuesday afternoon may be causing heaving rains, isolated flash flooding, and severe thunderstorms in parts of the Gulf coast. Heavy rains are also possible Wednesday in other areas of the United States including Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and the western Florida Panhandle.