by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Aug 27, 2017
US petroleum giant ExxonMobil said Sunday it was temporarily closing its enormous refinery in Baytown, Texas, after flooding caused by monster storm Harvey had led to "operational issues."
"We are in the process of a safe and systematic shutdown of operations," a company statement said.
ExxonMobil said it was "taking all precautions" to ensure workers' safety and minimize the impact of the closure on employees and the local community.
The group said all of its other Gulf Coast facilities were continuing to operate normally.
The Baytown complex is one of the biggest refining and petrochemical sites in the world.
Situated some 25 miles (40 kilometers) east of Houston, it produces an average 584,000 barrels of crude oil a day and employs 7,000 workers.
Harvey, the most powerful hurricane to strike the US mainland since 2005 and to hit Texas since 1961, roared onto the state's Gulf Coast late Friday as an immensely powerful category four hurricane.
It has since been downgraded to tropical storm status, but is continuing to drop record amounts of rain.
The area from Houston to Galveston was hit by some two feet (60 centimeters) of rain in 24 hours, and authorities have warned of catastrophic flooding of historic proportions.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil, was asked about the storm during an appearance Sunday on Fox News Sunday.
He said his former industry had been through many major storms and was probably among the "most prepared for these types of events."
But, he added, "there will be challenges that are created by a storm of this magnitude."
Refineries close in response to Hurricane Harvey, gas prices may be affected
Harvey was a Category 2 hurricane as it approached the southern coast of Texas early Friday. The National Hurricane Center in Miami, Fla., said Harvey is expected to make landfall late Friday or early Saturday and then track slowly inland through the weekend. Maximum sustained winds are near 110 miles per hour and total rain accumulations could range between 15 inches to as high as 35 inches.
The U.S. Gulf of Mexico is home to about 20 percent of the estimated total production in the nation. Anadarko Petroleum, which operates 10 installations in the region, evacuated staff and closed down operations at four of those earlier this week. British energy company BP, which operates four offshore production centers, said its operations weren't impacted by the storm.
The onshore region is concentrated with refineries and the storm could have lasting impacts on the delivery of petroleum products. Valero Energy Corp., which has headquarters in Texas, said only those employees with a direct role in hurricane preparations are on duty.
"As the storm has now become a possible Category 3 hurricane and its projected landfall continues to be along the coast near Corpus Christi, Texas, Valero is in the process of shutting down its Corpus Christi and Three Rivers refineries in a safe, controlled manner," the company said in an emailed statement.
So far, retail gasoline prices are holding relatively stable. With at least five refineries in the region shut down, prices at the pump in the area could climb about 10 cents per gallon, or about 4.5 percent based on current prices, according to GasBuddy.
Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy, told UPI early Friday the national average price could jump as much as 15 cents, or 6 percent, depending on the extent of Harvey's impact.
"Major flooding will be the key issue and how long refineries remain shut down will have an impact on gasoline prices," he said. "The danger zone is if refiners are shut more than two weeks."
The Mid-Atlantic and surrounding regions would have the most dramatic and most immediate response, with prices spiking as much as 20 cents per gallon. Starting next week, the Great Lakes states, already the most volatile market in the country, could see gasoline prices jump by as much as 15 cents.
"The situation is very fluid so any estimates may change," DeHaan stressed.
Caracas (AFP) Aug 25, 2017
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Thursday warned the armed forces in his crisis-hit country against "fissures" in their ranks, ahead of war games seen as a show of strength after US President Donald Trump's threat of military action. Maduro launched the warning in a speech to his top military leadership, including General Vladimir Padrino, his defense minister, and General Remigio Ceba ... read more
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