By Bruce Meyer, Crain Staff
Akron, Ohio -- With all 495 000 metric tons of North American EPDM capacity located in Texas and Louisiana, this year's hurricane season definitely left its mark on the industry.
Most of the producers have their EPDM factories back in operation following hurricanes Gustav and Ike.
Lanxess Corp., however, doesn't expect the EPDM facility at its Orange, Texas, complex back before late October.
Besides EPDM, Lanxess makes hydrogentated nitrile and polybutadiene rubber at the site.
When Hurricane Ike made landfall on 13 Sept., the facility sustained flooding that damaged much of the plant's equipment and electrical infrastructure, leaving it without power and voice and data communications, the firm said.
It declared force majeure that day on its EPDM, polybutadiene and HNBR materials. On 30 Sept., Lanxess said it expected production of its cobalt-polybutadiene rubber and Therban-brand HNBR to resume in late October, followed shortly by its EPDM and other polybutadiene lines.
The facility did get good news Oct. 6 when full power was restored to the site, ahead of all the other factories on the miles-long stretch of â€œChemical Rowâ€ in Orange.
â€œTo be the first facility with the lights back on is really a testament to the hard work and long hours the employees have been putting in for the past few weeks to get the site back to normal and operations resumed as soon as possible,â€ John Schmidt, Orange site manager for Lanxess, said in a statement.
ExxonMobil Chemical Co. has two plants in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, that were out of operation for a couple of weeks because of some minor flooding caused by Hurricane Gustav, according to EPDM Development Manager Mike Bednarik.
Sometime before the hurricane made landfall, though, ExxonMobil had moved some inventory inland from the Gulf Coast.
â€œThat really helped working with our customers to help balance our ability to supply material,â€ he said.
ExxonMobil also would have had the option in a pinch to supply EPDM from its plant in France, a backup option that wasn't needed on this occasion, Bednarik added.
Dow Chemical Co.'s Dow Elastomers business unit has EPDM facilities in Plaquemine, Louisiana, and Seadrift, Texas. Operations at both locations were affected at the times of the storms, but both are now back online, according to Clint Schmidt, market development manager for automotive thermosets.
Lion Copolymer LLC's sole EPDM facility is in Geismer, Louisiana, but it escaped relatively unscathed.
The firm enacted its hurricane preparedness procedure the Thursday before the storm and staged materials to be shipped the beginning of the next week, according to Jesse Zeringue, Lion Copolymer executive vice president for EPDM.
Geography also played in the company's favour, as the facility is far enough inshore that it had to deal with the winds from the storm but not the flooding.
â€œEven though we had a short power outage, there was no problem with the plant itself,â€ Zeringue said. â€œWe were still able to ship the day following the storm.â€
Because some of the other suppliers in the market were out longer-with Lanxess still not operating-he said supply for EPDM is tight coming out of the storms, and the long-term impact of the storms still isn't known.
â€œThose things have not completely played out. It will take a while to work out in the pipeline.â€
From Rubber & Plastics News (A Crain publication)