US Gulf natgas, crude pipelines ready for Gustav

29 August 2008 22:14  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--US Gulf coast natural gas, crude and refined products pipelines are much better protected against hurricane damage and power failures than they were three years ago and can recover more quickly, federal officials said on Friday.


Kevin Kolever, an assistant secretary at the US Department of Energy (DOE), told a press conference that both the department and the energy industry “are much better prepared now to protect against and respond to hurricane damage” than in 2005 when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck the Gulf coast.


Kolever and other federal officials spoke with reporters about wide-scale preparations being made by national, state and local government agencies in anticipation of the expected Gulf coast landfall of Hurricane Gustav on Monday or Tuesday.


In 2005 electricity and natgas supplies knocked out by Katrina and Rita remained offline for many days in some areas, and the loss of those crucial utilities hampered rescue efforts and restarts for many of the region’s chemical plants.


The storms also shut down operations of three key crude oil and gasoline pipelines - the Colonial, Plantation and Capline systems - that feed the US Northeast, the South and the Midwest.


The storms shut down Henry Hub, the major natural gas supply intersection at Erath, Louisiana, that interconnects with nine interstate and intrastate gas pipelines.


Natural gas is a key feedstock for US petrochemicals production.


Kolever, responsible for electricity and energy reliability, noted that while natgas and other energy pipelines are largely underground, their above-ground pumping stations were exposed to damage and widespread power losses.


“Pipeline operations in 2005 could sustain loss of power to three pumping stations simultaneously,” Kolever said, “but in Katrina they lost power to as many as seven stations.”


“Now the operators of those systems have built in a lot more redundancy and have installed or pre-positioned generators that will be quickly be available to restore power as needed to pumping stations to keep the pipelines working,” he said.


He said DOE staff also are better prepared to respond to energy sector complications in the wake of a hurricane.  “We have enhanced our capability to respond to these kinds of situations, we have more personnel, better communications and GPS systems in place so that we can better communicate and work with the energy sector,” he said.


Kolever emphasised, however, that “the energy sector itself is much better prepared now than they were three years ago, with better communications, improved infrastructure and redundant back-up systems”.


“Things are much better now than three years ago,” he said.


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By: Joe Kamalick
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