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Houston petchems face imminent winter storm threat

February 03/2011

(ICIS) -- Forecasters placed the greater Houston region under a winter storm watch on Wednesday, with the hub of the US petrochemical industry likely to face a rare onslaught of snow, freezing rain and sustained low temperatures.

The state of Texas issued rolling power outages early Wednesday, attempting to compensate for a power generation shortage brought on by excessive heating demand. But by Wednesday afternoon, state officials said they were directing utility providers to resume normal operations.

LyondellBasell spokesman David Harpole said his company had not experienced any significant electrical supply issues in Texas and did not anticipate any, since most of the companys power is produced via cogeneration. LyondellBasell had already taken steps to winterise its Houston-area facilities, including electric trace heating in vulnerable areas of pipes and steam traps to keep condensation from freezing.

Other major refiners and chemical producers, including Huntsman, ExxonMobil and BP, said their Texas operations had yet to be impacted by either the cold or power outages.

Market sources said the midwest snowfall was wreaking havoc on US ethanol plants, with some plants down and others unable to deliver material because they could not get trucks to their facilities.

Temperatures are expected to warm to more seasonal norms for much of the US by Sunday, allowing snow and ice in Houston to thaw.


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