Houston, 27 August (Argus) — Industries from Beaumont, Texas, to Lake Charles, Louisiana, are assessing damage and beginning recovery from Hurricane Laura today, the most powerful hurricane on record to hit the region.

The storm came ashore near Cameron, Louisiana, about 35 miles (56km) east of the Texas-Louisiana border at 2am ET this morning as a Category 4 storm, bringing 11-foot (3.3m) tidal surges and 150 mph (241 km/h) winds. More than a half-million residents of coastal counties and parishes fled ahead of the storm, with many areas of southwest Louisiana expected to be without power for at least the next day — if not longer — because of downed power lines.

Hurricane Laura poses biggest storm threat to U.S. oil output in 15 years- oil and gas 360

Source: Reuters

A narrowing of the storm’s path before landfall means it hit just about 5pc of US refining capacity, largely around the Lake Charles area. Nearly 16pc of US capacity, from the Houston, Texas, area eastward, was taken off line in preparation for the storm.

Sempra Energy’s Cameron LNG terminal and Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass LNG terminal were also in harm’s way, as well as countless petrochemical sites, terminals, ports and businesses that support the Gulf coast energy complex.

Storm surge of 15-20 feet was expected at Calcasieu Pass, south of Lake Charles, and 10-15 feet at Sabine Lake south of Port Arthur and Beaumont, according to the National Hurricane Center. But the storm seems to have missed those marks according to water level gauges for those areas, with 11 feet recorded at Calcasieu Pass at around 1am ET and 5.2 feet at Sabine Pass at 11pm ET yesterday and 3:30am ET today.

Parts of downtown Lake Charles, which is about 35 miles inland from the coast, were heavily damaged according to broadcast reports and emergency management officials. The 22-story Capital One office tower had most of its windows blown out, while a floating casino broke loose and was lodged against the Interstate 10 bridge.

In nearby Westlake, Lousisiana, a burning chemical plant sent a clouds of smoke across the highway and into neighboring businesses and residential communities.

Facilities in the Port Arthur-Beaumont area so far appear to have been spared the heaviest effects of the storm, including ports and terminals responsible for 20pc of US crude exports this year.

Motiva Chemical’s 635,000 t/yr flexicracker in Port Arthur — which is next to Motiva’s 600,000 b/d refinery that was shuttered ahead of the storm — began restarting this morning.

About 84pc of US Gulf of Mexico crude production — or 1.6mn b/d — has been shut in since 25 August, according to the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE). Laura was preceded by tropical storm Marco, which came ashore nearby in central Louisiana before breaking apart.

The storm is weakening as continues to move north toward Arkansas, bringing rains and 70mph winds. It is expected to turn to the northeast tomorrow morning and fall to a tropical depression.

The track Hurricane Laura followed was similar to one taken by Hurricane Rita in 2005, which led to an estimated $18bn in damages and more than 120 fatalities. Laura’s route spared Houston, Texas — the fourth-largest city in the US and home to the single largest cluster of refineries and petrochemical plants in the country.

US refineries in path of Hurricane Laura ‘000 b/d
Refiner Capacity
Shut or reduced capacity
Citgo Lake Charles 425.0
Phillips 66 Lake Charles 249.0
Motiva Port Arthur 600.0
Total Port Arthur 240.0
ExxonMobil Beaumont 362.0
Valero Port Arthur 325.0
Total 2,201.0

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