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Freezing temperatures, possible snow threaten US Gulf chems

February 02/2011

(ICIS) -- A strong cold front will bring sub-freezing temperatures and possible snow to parts of the US Gulf coast in the coming days, threatening chemical operations and raising heating oil prices, sources said on Tuesday.


In Houston, considered the hub of the US petrochemical industry, temperatures are projected to fall to 19-25 Fahrenheit (-7 to -4 Celsius) for each of the next four nights, representing the coldest air of the season.


LyondellBasell spokesman David Harpole said his company had already taken steps to "winterise" its Houston-area facilities and to ensure that they are prepared to weather the storm as designed.


Harpole added that LyondellBasell plans to use electric trace heating in vulnerable areas of pipes, as well as steam traps to keep condensation drained from lines before it can freeze.


During similar temperatures in January 2010, numerous Texas facilities including ExxonMobils Baytown olefins plant, DuPonts Beaumont aniline site and Huntsmans Port Neches complex had to be shut down, even as no snow fell.


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