Fmr. Shell Oil President John Hofmeister: Water is the enemy of a refinery

Former Shell Oil (NYSE:RDS.A) President John Hofmeister, during an appearance on FOX Business, said rain hinders refineries' ability to produce gas effectively.

“Water is the enemy of a refinery,” Hofmeister told Stuart Varney on Varney & Co. on Wednesday and added that it will take time for refineries to operate safely. “You have to protect safety at all costs and you have to have people who are there to protect and make decisions about safety and if you’re inundated with water—and 26 inches is a lot of water—then you’re better off from a precautionary standpoint to shut it down to keep everyone safe.”

Heavy rains and flooding from Harvey ripped through Texas causing at least 12 refineries to close including Exxon in Beaumont and the nation’s largest, Motiva, in Port Arthur.

According to Hofmeister, Shell owned 50% of Motiva during Hurricane Rita, but despite advances in damage protection, refineries can’t withstand two feet of water.

“Rita came right up through Port Arthur. Port Arthur was shut down for probably about two months at that time. We decided when re-putting it all back together, it was a Motiva refinery… We hardened that facility, particularly against sea water,” he said. “Hardening means you lift all the electricals up off the ground so anytime you have an electrical connection you’re 12 of 15 feet above ground, but still in terms of operating, you can’t operate in two feet of water.”