Hurricane Delta's winds topple gear, disrupt U.S. oil refineries

FILE PHOTO: Hurricane Delta passes through Cancun

By Erwin Seba

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Hurricane Delta shut power and toppled equipment at U.S. Gulf Coast oil refineries and closed oil-export ports as its destructive winds and storm surge reached far from its center.

Nearly 700,000 homes and businesses in three Gulf Coast states were without power on Saturday after Delta made landfall overnight as a Category 2 hurricane with winds of 100 miles per hour (161 kph) near the town of Creole, Louisiana.

Delta's fierce winds tore roofs off homes, cut electric power and disrupted energy operations as far away as Port Arthur, Texas, 65 miles (105 km) west of Delta's landfall.

Total SA's 225,500 barrel-per-day (bpd) refinery lost power, Valero Energy Corp's 335,000 bpd plant lost a cooling tower, and Motiva Enterprises shut a small unit at its 607,000 bpd refinery amid the storm, people familiar with operations said.

Total quickly launched efforts to restart the oil-processing plant, the people said.

Total, Valero and Motiva did not reply to requests for comment.

Royal Dutch Shell's Convent, Geismar and Norco, Louisiana, oil and chemical plants were operating normally, a spokesman said.

Three other Louisiana refineries close to the storm's track were previously shut for maintenance work or from damage by a more powerful hurricane six weeks ago. Those plants are operated by Citgo Petroleum and Phillips 66.

Cheniere Energy Inc, which operates a natural gas processing plant on the Texas-Louisiana border, was evaluating facilities on Saturday. Its Sabine Pass liquefied natural gas (LNG) export plant remains online and employees were safe, a spokeswoman said.

Oil and petrochemical ports from Beaumont, Texas, to Lake Charles, Louisiana, were shut to commercial vessels ahead of the storm and remained closed on Saturday. Houston and Galveston were open and operating normally, data from the U.S. Coast Guard showed.

The hurricane cut most U.S. offshore Gulf of Mexico oil output and 62% of natural gas, the Department of Interior reported. Staff from more than 280 production platforms and drilling rigs were evacuated ahead of the storm.

It typical takes several days after a storm passes for energy producers to evaluate facilities for damage, return workers and allow offshore production to resume.

However, Laura struck Louisiana as a Category 4 hurricane in late August with 150 mph winds and a storm surge that damaged onshore gas-processing and offshore pipeline operations.

(This story has been refiled to remove extra word "from" in lead paragraph)

(Reporting by Erwin Seba; writing and additional reporting by Gary McWilliams; Editing by Marguerita Choy)