Update: Pipelines, refineries and platforms shut down as Isaac nears

By Jeannie Kever and Zain Shauk

Tropical Storm Isaac has forced facility shut downs and evacuation onshore and in the Gulf of Mexico as oil companies, refiners and pipeline businesses take precautions ahead of the system, which appears to be nearing hurricane status.

Kinder Morgan shut in and evacuated some facilities in Louisiana, in accordance with mandatory evacuations in the area because of the storm, the company said.

Its compressor station in Toca, Louisiana, was shut down and had also lost about 250 million cubic feet daily natural gas production from companies that had shut down offshore facilities, the company said Monday.

Kinder Morgan’s Tennessee natural gas system had lost between 350 million and 400 million cubic feet of daily natural gas supply because of Isaac-related production shut ins.

The changes had not had an impact on the company’s ability to deliver gas to customers, Kinder Morgan said.

Valero Energy Corporation, the nation’s largest refiner, has begun shutting down its Louisiana refineries and said it expects to have both shutdowns completed by late Monday.

Valero’s St. Charles and Mereaux refineries are in the process of orderly shutdowns, company spokesman Bill Day said Monday morning.

Day said the St. Charles refinery, the company’s largest in Louisiana, has a through-put capacity of 270,000 barrels per day; the Mereaux facility has a through-put capacity of 140,000 barrels per day.

Non-essential personnel are already being notified, Day said, and a handful of people will ride-out the storm at each refinery.

He said no timeline has been established for restarting the refineries.

“As soon as it is safe to orderly restart, we will begin that,” he said.

Enterprise Products Partners completed evacuation of all its offshore platforms Sunday, with the exception of the Falcon Nest platform, near Matagorda.

Spokesman Rick Rainey said most of the pipelines were also shut in because the producers had closed production.

Two Enterprise fractionation plants have also been shut in, one in Baton Rouge and one in St. Charles Parish, he said.

Phillips 66 announced late Sunday that it had begun temporarily shutting down the 247,000 barrel-per-day Alliance Refinery in Belle Chasse, La.

It said then that its 239,000 barrel-per-day Lake Charles Refinery in Westlake, La., had not yet been affected.

Also Monday,  a spokeswoman for Louisiana’s Port Fourchon confirmed that the port, located 50 miles south of New Orleans, was in the process of closing down.

Shell said it planned to fully evacuate its facilities in the eastern Gulf today.

“Production shut-ins are occurring to coincide with full evacuations in the eastern (Gulf),” Shell said in a statement. “In the central (Gulf), long-lead production is being ramped down as well.”

Transocean said it had evacuated another 35 people from its vessels, clearing 195 workers from its 13 deepwater rigs and completely vacating its Deepwater Nautilus moored semisubmersible.

Oil prices are rising because of shut ins at Gulf facilities.

As of Sunday, 24 percent of offshore oil production had been shut in, along with 8 percent of natural gas production, according to the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.

Anadarko Petroleum Corp. added to that total, saying it had successfully shut in production and removed all workers – a total of 160 people – from its facilities in the central and eastern regions of the Gulf.

The Anadarko operations interrupted included its Independence Hub, the largest offshore gas processing facility in the Gulf, “with capacity to bring 1 billion cubic feet of clean-burning natural gas per day to American consumers,” according to the company’s website.

Other Anadarko stoppages occurred at its Red Hawk, Constitution, Neptune, Gunnison and its Marco Polo facility, which is capable of producing 120,000 barrels a day of oil.

Transocean increased its evacuated personnel to 160 non-essential workers on Monday, clearing them off of several of its 13 deepwater rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, the company said.

BP said Sunday it was evacuating workers and temporarily halting output at all of its production platforms in the Gulf.

Chevron started evacuating workers Sunday, but said it had so far not interrupted any production.

Read more on Gulf production interruptions here.