Storm season strains gas distribution system

07 15, 2014 by The Daily Advertiser

We are in the early stages of another hurricane season. In fact as I compose this, Arthur is churning in the south Atlantic.

While we all hope the predictions for a “lighter” than average hurricane season are true, one need only be reminded that devastating hurricanes Betsy (1965) and Andrew (1992) occurred during seasons predicted to be lighter than normal. We also learned with Hurricane Isaac last year that what was thought to be a minor storm can have unexpected impacts. Louisiana citizens and industry must continue to take the necessary preparations.

The oil and gas industry is already in the planning stages for the 2014 season. The industry’s highest priority is to ensure Louisiana citizens have the fuel they need to either evacuate and/or manage the aftereffects of a storm. This occurs as the industry is also striving to meet our normal fuel supply commitments to the east coast of the United States at the same time.

This planning is matched by an equal priority to protect the safety of our workers and our facilities. All entities in the fuel distribution network recently met with the state agencies responsible for fuel distribution at the time of a storm.

All involved are adjusting their plans based on the experiences of Hurricane Isaac (as well as Hurricane Sandy). My staff just met with the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security, which coordinates the state’s hurricane response efforts. The industry and the state constantly revise response plans based on the “lessons learned” from previous storms.

The public plays a major role in the industry’s preparations. As a storm enters the Gulf of Mexico, daily gasoline and diesel demand triples. This puts a great strain on the industry’s fuel distribution network.

To give you some perspective, the typical fuel tanker one sees at a gas station contains about 10,000 gallons of fuel. If each family would buy 25 gallons of gasoline as a storm approaches, one tanker serves only 400 families. This means the industry has to supply a tanker per neighborhood.

During the summer, the gasoline for Acadiana primarily comes from terminals in Baton Rouge and Lake Charles. This alone means a two-hour round-trip drive. And just as lines at gas stations grow as the storm approaches, the lines at the terminals to fill the tankers increase. These lines can be multiple hours long. I hope these examples show the challenges we all face during hurricane season.

Again, the industry is committed to meet the fuel needs of Louisiana citizens when a storm approaches. Your cooperation and assistance in fueling “early and often” greatly helps us meet this commitment.

For this and other hurricane tips, visit the state’s web site at . Again, we all hope for a slow hurricane season we but must stay prepared.

— Chris John, a former congressman, is president of Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association.