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US Gulf ports oil terminals reel from Harvey floods

Corpus Christi and Houston area ports remain shut

OIL ports and terminals in the US Gulf hit by Hurricane Harvey and the subsequent floods continue to reel from catastrophic weather conditions that has strained recovery efforts.

The US Coast Guard is maintaining Condition Zulu, which means closed to vessel movement, in the Galveston Bay-Houston Port areas and the Port of Corpus Christi, even as oil refineries in the region assess storm damage.

Port Houston has extended the closure of its facilities to Tuesday due to the continued threat of inclement weather.

“We will be continuing to monitor the developing weather conditions to determine whether operations can safely resume on Wednesday. Updates will be provided as more information is available,” the port said on its website.

So far both crude and products imports and exports from the US Gulf have been affected as refineries stay shut, and at least one tanker company has indicated that operators expect the weather to subside Thursday morning for resuming operations, although severe flooding still hampers most operations like offshore pilots and ship-to-ship transfers.

Lloyd’s List Intelligence casualty information states that the Port of Corpus Christi is closed until the refloating of the drillship Paragon DPDS1 that broke off its moorings during Hurricane Harvey and drifted aground on the Corpus Christi entrance channel on August 26.

It said two tugs tried to take the vessel under control, but one tug sank during the operation and another one sustained damages, but there were no casualties reported.

The 14,274 gt 1979-built Paragon DPDS1 is currently blocking the port channel and traffic.

The Port of Corpus Christi said it is coordinating with the US Army Corps of Engineers and the US Coast Guard to expedite channel surveys, but so far all channels including the Corpus Christi Ship Channel and La Quinta Ship Channel remain closed.

“Current weather related to the remains of Hurricane Harvey is causing challenges to the survey operations,” the port said in a statement, adding that initial assessments indicating light to moderate damage and debris and it has begun to recall Tier 2 essential personnel to support the recovery operations.

Cheniere Energy, which operates the Sabine Pass LNG terminal in Louisiana, said it conducted initial assessments of impact from Hurricane Harvey. 

“At Sabine Pass, LNG production operations continued through the storm. Early assessments of the Corpus Christi construction site by Cheniere and our EPC partner Bechtel showed only minor cosmetic impacts,” the company said, adding that it is working to contact all employees to ensure safety.

"Now that the storm has passed through our Corpus Christi construction site, we are pleased to report that Corpus Christi saw no major impacts, and no interruption of LNG production at Sabine Pass has been experienced," chief executive Jack Fusco said in a statement.

Cheniere said it has activated its emergency office location in Dallas to support its gas supply and trading division and other essential functions to ensure obligations are met to continue producing LNG at Sabine Pass.

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