KANSAS CITY — One of the two sugar refineries in the New Orleans area that were shuttered because of Hurricane Ida planned to reopen on a limited basis over the weekend with power restored at midweek.
The ASR Group (Domino) Chalmette refinery at Arabi, La., had outside power restored late Sept. 1.
“Our teams continue to work on preparing the plant for operations and are expected to be in a position to start up on a limited basis this weekend, ramping up from there,” said Kate Zahn, director, North American customer service. “We have started shipping on a limited basis from our outside warehouses utilizing carriers that are able to make it into the area and expect to gradually ramp up this volume in the coming days.
“We increased operating days across our network and continue to utilize this capacity to supply customers to the best of our ability during this difficult time.”
The company noted that changes in shipping locations may affect requested delivery dates.
But the Louisiana Sugar Refining, LLC, (LSR) refinery at Gramercy, La., still did not have an estimated time from the local Entergy Corp. subsidiary as to when outside power would be restored to the plant, a company source said.
“We’re working on a back-up power generator, in conjunction with our own turbines,” he said, noting that LSR can produce its own electricity but needs supplemental outside power.
The ASR Group plant was taken down on Aug. 27 and the LSR plant on Aug. 28 as a precaution ahead of the fast-moving storm, which made landfall as a category 4 hurricane on Aug. 29. All employees at both plants were accounted for and safe.
Both refineries are major producers of refined cane sugar sourcing most of their raw sugar supply from Louisiana and Texas, with the ASR plant also utilizing some imported raw sugar. Combined, they produce more than 15% of the total US sugar supply. The ASR plant can produce 7 million lbs of sugar per day (about 1.3 million tons per year). The LSR plant can produce about 5.5 million lbs of refined sugar daily (about 1 million tons per year) and announced an expansion earlier in the year.
There still was no official word on the impact to the Louisiana sugarcane crop, harvest of which typically begins later in September, but early reports indicated crop damage may be lighter than initially feared.
“The mills so far have reported minimal damage and mostly energy related issues,” said Vincent O’Rourke, a Czarnikow sugar analyst.
The US Department of Agriculture rated the crop 70% good to excellent as of Aug. 29, up from 65% a week earlier. The crop was assessed before Hurricane Ida hit, and the rating would be expected to be sharply lower in the next report. A year ago the crop was rated 81% good to excellent as of Aug. 23 only to tumble to 60% as of Aug. 30 after Hurricane Laura hit in the same general area as Ida but as a less severe storm. The crop recovered to 75% good to excellent by the end of September. Louisiana was forecast by the USDA to account for 46% of US sugarcane and cane sugar production and 20% of total domestic sugar production in the 2021-22 marketing year.