Ports along Texas coast close, restrict traffic as Tropical Storm Beryl approaches

By Arathy Somasekhar, Marianna Parraga

HOUSTON (Reuters) -Ports along the Texas coast were closing or restricting vessel traffic on Sunday to prepare for Tropical Storm Beryl, which was expected to strengthen back to a hurricane before hitting the area early on Monday.  

The storm, which at one point intensified to a Category 5 hurricane, left a deadly trail of destruction across the Caribbean. It could grow into a Category 2 hurricane when it makes landfall in the middle of the Texas coast between Galveston and Corpus Christi, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

The port of Corpus Christi said it was closed after condition “Zulu” was set by the Coast Guard captain on Sunday. All vessel movement and cargo operations are restricted as gale force winds are expected within 12 hours. 

Corpus Christi, about 200 miles (322 km) from Houston, is the top crude oil export hub in the United States. Port closures could bring a temporary halt to crude exports, oil shipments to refineries, and motor fuels from those plants.

The port of Houston’s eight public facilities were set to close operations on Monday, a spokesperson said. The 52-mile Houston ship channel, which on Sunday was operating under transit restrictions, also allows access to some 200 private terminals. 

Meanwhile the ports of Freeport and Texas City were under condition “Yankee”, with all inbound vessel traffic suspended at these ports as gale force winds were predicted within 24 hours.

U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) producer Cheniere Energy said on Sunday its Corpus Christi facility was operating without interruptions, but all nonessential personnel were released from work.

“Our Gulf Coast assets, including Corpus Christi, have robust and proven severe-weather preparedness,” it said in a release.

Freeport LNG said it had implemented its weather emergency response plan, thought it did not give details. It said it intends to maintain normal operations at its liquefaction facility.    

Acting Texas Governor Dan Patrick urged people who were on vacation in coastal areas to leave before the storm made landfall and announced that 81 counties were added to the state’s disaster declaration list to make a total of 120.

“It’s a serious storm and you must take it seriously and be prepared,” he said in a meeting with officials in Austin.


Chemical maker Chemours Co , which has a production facility near Corpus Christi, said on Sunday it had integrated hurricane preparedness plans to ensure its sites remained safe. 

“We have escalated our hurricane preparedness plans to include planning for safe and adequate staffing during and after the storm and securing our equipment and assets, should the storm make landfall near our site,” the company said in an e-mailed statement.    

Enbridge Inc, which operates large crude oil export facilities near Corpus Christi, said all assets were operating, adding that they had activated emergency plans for its U.S. Gulf assets. 

Gibson Energy, which also operates an export facility in the area, said on Sunday all Gateway and Houston based employees were safe, and facilities and docks were secured after the port of Corpus Christi closure. The company initiated storm preparedness response protocols.

Citgo Petroleum Corp was cutting production at its 165,000 barrel-per-day Corpus Christi, Texas, refinery on Saturday, sources said. The refiner plans to keep the plant in operation at minimum during Beryl’s passage.

Some oil producers, including Shell and Chevron, had also shut in production or evacuated personnel from their Gulf of Mexico offshore platforms.

(Reporting by Arathy Somasekhar, Marianna Parraga and Erwin SEba in Houston; additional reporting by Curtis Willaims, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)



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