U.S. Gulf Coast refiners plan to operate through Storm Zeta

HOUSTON, Oct 27 (Reuters) - At least five Louisiana oil refineries in the path of Tropical Storm Zeta plan to remain operating as it makes a U.S. landfall on Wednesday, said people familiar with plant operations.

Oil and gas producers evacuated offshore production platforms and shut wells as the storm moved across the Gulf of Mexico. Zeta could strike the Gulf Coast between Louisiana and Alabama at or near hurricane intensity, forecasters said.

Refiners’ plans to continue operations could depend on the storm’s path and whether its winds intensify, the sources said. Two Louisiana plants have not restarted after storms earlier this year.

Exxon Mobil Corp’s 517,700 barrel-per-day (bpd) Baton Rouge, refinery, Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s 227,400 bpd Norco and 211,146 bpd Convent, Louisiana, refineries are proceeding with normal operations.

Exxon’s Baton Rouge plant is about 110 miles (177 km) northwest of the forecast path while Shell’s Convent and Norco refineries are 78 miles and 54 miles northwest of the latest storm track.

Exxon and Shell are monitoring the storm, spokespeople said. Shell also said it is prepared to take action as appropriate.

PBF Energy’s 190,000 bpd Chalmette, refinery and Valero Energy Corp’s 125,000 bpd Meraux refinery, both in Louisiana, also plan to remain running during the storm, people familiar with operations at those plants said.

PBF and Valero did not respond to requests for comment.

The PBF refinery is about 36 miles and the Valero refinery about 34 miles northwest of where Zeta is forecast to cross the Mississippi River.

Enbridge Inc shut a natural gas processing plant in Venice, Louisiana, on the wet side of the hurricane, which likely will see the most rain and wind.

The refinery nearest to where Zeta could strike the coast, Phillips 66’s 255,600 bpd Alliance, Louisiana, refinery, has been shut since September for maintenance. (Reporting by Erwin Seba Editing by Marguerita Choy)