Although the hurricane has long since passed through Texas, the petrochemical hub in and around the Houston area continues to regain its footing in Ike’s wake, with several producers declaring force majeure. On Sept. 19, Bayer MaterialScience LLC (Pittsburgh, PA), the North American subsidiary of Bayer MaterialScience AG (Leverkusen, Germany) made the declaration in response to outages and supply issues at its Baytown, TX production site. The move affects the company’s polyurethanes (PUR); coatings, adhesives, specialties (CAS); and polycarbonate (PC) business units as well as its inorganic basic chemicals segment, with brand names like Desmodur, Makrolon, Bayblend, and Makroblend impacted. Bayer said the move was necessitated by Ike’s destruction of “swaths of the infrastructure in the Houston region,” with the company adding that it is impossible to predict how long the supply disruption will last. Bayer said precautions taken helped spare its Baytown site from major effects, but the regional damage to transportation arteries would make it “difficult, if not impossible, to supply the site with raw materials.”
DuPont announced on the same day that Ike had damaged its Sabine facility in Orange, TX, forcing it to declare force majeure for its ethylene copolymers business. At the time of the press release, William F. Weber, VP and general manager DuPont Packaging & Industrial Polymers, said the company was still assessing storm damage at the site and it could not say with any certainty when operations would restart.
Polymer powder and plastic film concentrates supplier ICO Inc. (www.icopolymers.com, Houston, TX) said an initial inspection of its two plants in the Houston area indicated no major structural damage or damage to equipment, inventory, or processed materials, but there were power outages at its facilities in China, TX, which is approximately 75 miles northeast of Houston, and the Bayshore Industrial plant located in LaPorte, which is approximately 25 miles southeast of Houston. The company’s corporate headquarters within Houston survived Ike unscathed, other than experiencing its own power outage, which affected its website and U.S., Malaysian, and Brazilian e-mail servers.
According to the Greater Houston Partnership (www.houston.org/industryGuide/petrochemical.asp), the Houston Ship Channel is home to one of the world’s largest petrochemicals hubs, with the $15 billion complex representing the largest such site in the country. The Houston-Gulf Coast region accounts for nearly 40% of the nation’s base petrochemicals manufacturing capacity, boasting more than 400 chemical manufacturing businesses that employ more than 37,000. By resin, Houston accounts for 37.1% of U.S. polyethylene capacity, 37% of its polyvinyl chloride capacity, and 53.4% of U.S. polypropylene capacity.