KANSAS CITY — The 111-year-old Domino Sugar refinery in Chalmette, La., was forced to close the afternoon of Aug. 27 due to a fire in one of its silos, according to news reports from the area.
Local press reports indicated the fire broke out in one of the plant’s 10-story silos during restart operations at around 4:00 p.m. Central Time and spread to a second silo. There was no evidence of an explosion, but the cause of the fire still was under investigation. The silos were said to be filled with refined sugar.
The 3-alarm fire was brought under control in about two hours. About 130 employees were safely evacuated from the plant. All were accounted for, and no injuries were reported, local parish officials said.
A source at Domino said it was not yet known when operations at the plant would be able to resume. The refinery is one of the largest in the world.
Operations at the plant had been halted as a precaution ahead of Hurricane Laura, which made landfall to the west, near the Louisiana-Texas border, early in the morning of Aug. 27. There was no damage to the Domino plant from the hurricane, or to the Louisiana Sugar Refining, LLC, refinery in Gramercy, La., which continued to operate during the storm.
The loss of a major refinery comes at a time when spot sugar supplies are tight late in the 2019-20 marketing year that ends Sept. 30. Total domestic sugar production (beet and cane) in 2019-20 was down 11% from 2018-19 due to weather-reduced sugarcane production in Louisiana and an early freeze that prevented the harvest of thousands of acres of sugar beets in 2019.
It was not yet known how the loss of production from the facility will impact sugar prices, which already had been firming the past couple of weeks as beet processors have sold about 80% or more of their prospective 2020-21 beet sugar production, and cane refiners had most of their September through December 2020 supply committed and also were well sold for 2021.
Domino is part of ASR Group, which also includes C&H Sugar, Redpath Sugar, Tate & Lyle Sugars and Sidul. ASR Group is owned by Florida Crystals Corp. and the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida. Domino joined ASR (then American Sugar Refining) in 2001.