Area plants curtail operations for Isaac

08 30, 2012 by The Advocate

Most of the area’s chemical and petrochemical plants and refineries shut down to wait out Hurricane Isaac, industry association heads said Wednesday. “It depends on the plant. But especially with the storm track coming through Baton Rouge, a lot of them will shut down,” said Connie Fabre, executive director of the Greater Baton Rouge Industrial Association.

Plants tie everything down and tell nonessential workers to stay home, Fabre said.

Louisiana Chemical Association President Dan Borné said the plants he’s heard from have either shut down or restricted operations.

“They’re riding it out,” he said.

Plants have groups of employees, “ride-out crews,” capable of handling whatever comes up during a storm, Borné said.

Once the storm passes the companies can make a full assessment of damage, he said.

One of the first things the plants address after damage is supply chain and logistical issues, Borné said. Natural gas is a key feedstock for many plants, and about two-thirds of the offshore natural gas supply has been shut in because of Isaac.

Even some of the alternative supply pipelines are shut in, Borné said.

Borné said restarting the plants is a complex process that takes time.

The plants are like aircraft carriers, he said. “You can’t push a button to start one or flip a switch to restart one.”