Oil refineries, pipelines and shipping channels in Texas have begun their gradual return to normal operations. Late on Monday, Royal Dutch Shell said it was preparing to restart a gasoline unit at its Deer Park, Texas, joint-venture refinery. Exxon Mobil, Halliburton and Chevron reopened their doors to office workers on Tuesday September 5th, the day after Labor Day. However, ConocoPhillips has closed its Houston headquarters until September 11th. BP’s Houston offices suffered severe flooding and will be unavailable until December, CEO Bob Dudley told Reuters, adding that about 650 of BP’s 6,000 staff in the area were made homeless by Harvey. Exxon said that its Spring, Texas, campus had been unaffected by the weather event but is encouraging employees to work remotely if they can.
Port operations across the Houston area were resuming, although many still had restrictions on vessel draft, according to US Coast Guard updates. A vessel went into Port Arthur on Tuesday to test currents which thus far had prevented its reopening to ship traffic.
On Monday September 4th the USCG permitted some barge traffic to enter Port Arthur, Texas and it was possible that some ships would be allowed to enter on Tuesday.
Scott Whalen, director of the USCG’s Vessel Tracking Service at Port Arthur, said that ships had not yet been permitted to enter the port along the Neches River because of extreme river currents. Motiva Enterprises’ Port Arthur Refinery sits alongside the port. At 603,000 bpd, it is one of the largest producers of gasoline in the US.
Port Arthur, the Port of Beaumont and Port of Orange are deep water ports on the Sabine-Neches waterway near the Texas-Louisiana border and on Monday were the only three of 28 ports on the Texas coast still closed to ship traffic.
Survey results of the port are due Monday evening, and following an assessment the Coast Guard will have decided whether the port could reopen on Tuesday, although any reopening would include restrictions.
The Coast Guard currently has a two loaded barge limit for the Neches River.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Sunday increased his economic damage estimate to between $150bn and $180bn. The US House of Representatives will vote Wednesday on $7.85bn in emergency relief funds for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The Small Business Administration plans another vote later this month on a separate $6.7bn sought by President Donald Trump.
Meanwhile, force 5 Hurricane Irma looks set to cause damage in the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, the northern coast of the Dominican republic, the north side of Cuba and ultimately southern Florida, although its route is still uncertain. A further jink to the south and it could bypass southern Florida and head into the Gulf of Mexico, with worrying implications for offshore energy and wherever it eventually hit land. Alternatively, Miami could be in its path.