Refineries closing

HOUSTON (AP) - Oil refineries and chemical plants in and around Houston are shutting down as Hurricane Ike churns toward the upper Texas Gulf Coast.

Exxon Mobil, Valero Energy, ConocoPhillips and Marathon Oil are among the companies halting operations as the storm closed in.

Refineries on the upper Texas coast account for one-fifth of U.S. refining capacity. Exxon Mobil Corp.'s plant in Baytown, outside Houston, is the nation's largest refinery.

Dow Chemical is shutting down its enormous Freeport complex, which is home to 75 plants producing some 27 billion pounds of chemical or chemical products each year. It's also closing its 139-acre La Porte plant.

The Port of Houston will shut down operations this afternoon as Hurricane Ike thunders toward the upper Texas Gulf Coast.

Officials say the nation's second largest port will remain closed until Monday.

Ike is expected to become at least a Category 3 storm with winds upward of 111 miles per hour before it comes ashore. Hurricane warnings are in effect from Morgan City, Louisiana, to Baffin Bay, near Kingsville, Texas.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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