An oil refinery in Belle Chasse that was flooded during Hurricane Ida is being shut down and turned into a storage terminal, reports the Associated Press. It’s prompting local leaders to assess the potential economic impacts that could come with losing one of the area’s biggest employers.
Phillips 66 announced last week that it will be closing its massive Alliance Refinery along the banks of the Mississippi River south of New Orleans. The Houston-based company says the extensive damage from the Aug. 29 storm was too expensive to repair.
Converting part of the existing infrastructure at the 2,400-acre site to a storage and transit terminal will likely affect most of the 900 employees and contractors who currently work there.
“Phillips 66 is in the process of determining how many employees will remain at the terminal,” spokesperson Bernardo Fallas says. “Some employees could be offered positions at other sites within our portfolio.”
Plaquemines Parish President Kirk Lepine called the news “a gut punch to the community.”
Storm surge from Ida breached the refinery’s internal levee wall and much of the facility was covered under about 5 feet of water. Phillips 66 put it up for sale days before the hurricane, citing poor market conditions, but the damage caused the plant’s value to fall.
The Belle Chasse site that was built in 1971 has been the parish’s largest single source of property tax revenue for many years, according to Plaquemines Parish Assessor Belinda Hazel. The company will pay $7.4 million of the parish’s approximately $60 million total this year.
Other projects such as Venture Global’s proposed $8.9 billion liquefied natural gas plant could provide more jobs in the area. Federal regulators said at the end of October that the planned 650-acre site for the plant could start being cleared.
David Dismukes, executive director of LSU’s Center for Energy Studies, says the Alliance Refinery closure was not unexpected but is still a major blow.
“Finding something that can replace that big piece of infrastructure at that level of employment isn’t easy to come by,” he says. “I can’t tell you that there is anything too promising out there for Plaquemines Parish.” Read the full story.