The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Hurricane Season is Preparation Season

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted May 22, 2018

Hurricane Season 2018 finds our industry, the refinery and pipeline sectors and associated industries prepared to protect energy production facilities and infrastructure that are vital to keeping Americans well supplied, even during severe weather conditions.

That was the message from natural gas and oil and other energy-related sectors during a conference call with reporters. The 2017 hurricanes, Harvey and Irma, confirmed the importance of pre-event training, established emergency protocols, coordinated communications and overall preparation – which our industry and others already are undertaking as June 1, the official start of hurricane season, approaches. API was joined on the call by the Petroleum Marketers Association of America (PMAA), American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), American Gas Association (AGA), Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA) and the National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA).  

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Major weather events test preparations; we and our energy partners are focused on being as prepared as possible for this season. For natural gas and oil companies, that can include detailed plans to evacuate employees from offshore platforms before a major storm arrives, understanding how and when to safely shut down refineries if that becomes necessary, making arrangements for fuel resupply in affected areas – both for emergency responders and consumers – securing electricity generation capacity to operate vital facilities, coordinating with federal and state officials and more. It also means supporting the communities where our employees work and live, to help with recovery.

The twin 2017 hurricanes presented challenges, but preparation paid off in many ways. Suzanne Lemieux, API:

“Our [industry's] efforts to prepare for these weather events were evident during the 2017 hurricane season, where consumers across the country saw limited impacts on gasoline prices. In fact, our nation’s diverse energy infrastructure network, including pipelines, tankers and barges, helped ensure that consumers had the energy they needed and demanded before, during and after the storms.”

Lemieux described industry’s preparations before hurricanes arrive, which are designed to enhance safety for our workforce and neighboring communities, support emergency responders and restore energy supplies as quickly as possible:

“The safety of our workforce and the environment is paramount when preparing and responding to hurricanes. Further, ensuring a flexible and resilient energy infrastructure is critical to supplying consumers with the energy they need and demand every day. To prepare and respond to weather events, API works with federal, state, and local first responders and government officials to help promote safety and restore normal operations following a storm. Our industry has developed innovations, technology and knowledge from past big-weather events that has better prepared the industry to withstand future storms. As the 2018 hurricane season fast approaches, our industry stands ready to help ensure the safety of our workforce and the environment.”

After a storm passes, industry has an important role to play: neighbor. This is something our companies did well in 2017, recognizing that stricken areas need a lot of hands to help with recovery and restoration. Lemieux:

“When an event occurs we are committed to helping communities recover, because we are part of these communities. We saw this last season with our industry teaming up to aid in recovery and rebuilding efforts throughout the Gulf region. This is part of our commitment to communities across the country.”

See below for remarks from other speakers on the conference call.

Sherri Stone, PMAA:

“Following a disaster marketers re-supply their clients as quickly as is possible. Marketers often take these services even further by helping to rebuild supply when there are declared emergencies in other parts of the country. The marketers who do this provide an invaluable service for their country, and we have put together a Disaster Fuel Response Program to connect companies looking for fuel during and following a disaster, with PMAA State Association member marketers and heating fuel providers who wish to provide the service. Use of this Program information will be a first as we completed the program following Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.”

Jeff Gunnulfsen, AFPM:

“The refining and petrochemical industries practice emergency response, every day, 365 days a year. No two storms or emergencies are alike, and our industries prepare vigorously and consistently for all types of disruptions. Preparation is the first step in managing major events, and by working diligently with industry partners, we're able to minimize the impacts of unpredictable events.”

Mike Bellman, AGA:

“Natural gas utilities have a proven track record of providing reliable service during hurricanes due to the fact that the natural gas pipeline network is predominantly underground and therefore remarkably resilient. Our preparations focus on customer and employee safety and being ready to restore service to individual homes and businesses when necessary. The American Gas Association offers a Mutual Assistance Program to members following any disaster or weather event that causes widespread interruption of natural gas service. This program helps provide personnel and equipment from unaffected natural gas utilities to help restore service safely and quickly.”

Rebecca Massello, INGAA:

“The natural gas pipeline industry is already preparing for the coming hurricane season as we look back at some of the successes and lessons learned from recent years. The U.S. natural gas industry has a proven track record of reliability and resilience as demonstrated by the 2017 hurricane season, which despite its ferocity, saw few outages and minimal impacts on nationwide natural gas prices. Increased supply diversity from inland natural gas production … helps ensure that pipelines remain reliable during extreme weather events. In addition, the natural gas delivery network, which includes varied sources of gas supply, multiple pipeline pathways between producers and consumers, and ample underground natural gas storage, provides multiple opportunities for work arounds if supply is disrupted during an extreme weather event. These design considerations coupled with regularly updated and tested emergency response plans help the natural gas pipeline industry prepare for and quickly recover from hurricanes and other events.”

Tim Charters, NOIA:

“While we are proud of the offshore industry’s safety, environmental and philanthropic record, natural disasters like Harvey and Nate also expose the vulnerability of America’s energy security. Due in part to poor energy policy, and political NIMBYism, America has placed the vast majority of our offshore energy eggs in one basket – the hurricane-prone Gulf of Mexico. Simply put, we dodged an energy security bullet during the 2017 hurricane season. By geographically concentrating our nation’s offshore energy production, the U.S. is rolling the dice when it comes to natural disasters. This is why we must ensure the continued development and production of our nation’s offshore energy resources from both inside of and outside of the Gulf of Mexico.”


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.