Sasol’s $11-Billion Chemical Project Resumes After Harvey Stall

  • Construction site couldn’t be accessed safely for 7 work days
  • Company continues to assess hurricane’s impact on project

A file photo of the logo of Sasol at its headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Photographer: STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images

Sasol Ltd. said workers began returning to its $11 billion Lake Charles Chemicals Project in Louisiana after the site was shut for more than a week because of Hurricane Harvey.

Construction workers came back “albeit at lower-than-usual turnout levels” following the Aug. 26 closure, Russell Johnson, a spokesman for Sasol’s North American operations, said in an email late Tuesday. “The site could not be accessed for safe work for seven work days,” he said.

Sasol last year raised the projected cost of Lake Charles by 25 percent to $11 billion, citing problems including weather delays at a site with “poorer-than-anticipated subsurface conditions.” The company has also lowered estimated returns from the plant, which will convert ethane into plastics and other products. Harvey, which made landfall near Corpus Christi, Texas, shuttered the region’s petrochemical operations.

Central to the weather delays cited by the company was a 50 percent increase in rainy days from the 10-year average, according to an investor fact sheet from August last year. Rainfall from Harvey has set a record for the continental U.S., according to the National Weather Service.

Sasol fell 1 percent to 386.49 rand at 11:28 a.m. in Johannesburg trading on Wednesday, taking its decline over the past month to 5.7 percent.

The company said it’s working with a venture of Fluor Corp. and TechnipFMC Plc, contracted by Sasol, “to assess further workforce and material supply impacts” to the Lake Charles project as a result of Hurricane Harvey.

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