Submitted by Nick Cunningham of OilPrice.com
Hurricane Harvey left widespread destruction in its wake, including to a string of oil refineries and petrochemical complexes that dot the Texas and Louisiana Coast. It was the most powerful hurricane to hit Texas in decades and dumped a year’s worth of rain on the Houston area in just a few days. Nearly 4 million barrels per day of refining capacity was knocked offline, with several facilities taking weeks to recover. WTI prices plunged as crude oil became trapped, left unprocessed and with nowhere to go.
ExxonMobil said on Thursday that it was shutting down its 370,000-bpd Beaumont, Texas refinery because of flooding. “Exxon Mobil's Beaumont refinery and chemical complex is conducting a preliminary assessment to determine the impact of the storm,” an Exxon spokesman said. “The Beaumont chemical plant has completed a safe and systematic shutdown of its units.”
The outage will likely be only temporary, and energy markets probably won’t skip a beat, with focus rightly concentrated on the Middle East. But the cleanup on the Texas coast for ordinary people will be more grueling, especially since some people only recently rebounded from the damage of Hurricane Harvey.
The odds are rising that in any given year, they will be threatened by severe weather. It’s rather striking that a run-of-the mill tropical depression led to catastrophic flooding in Houston this week, and forced the temporary shutdown of Exxon’s massive Beaumont refinery. It’s the kind of story that is increasingly moving from the “freak event” category and into the realm of an annual occurrence.