Hurricane Irene storm surge may threaten US east coast refineries

26 August 2011 20:44  [Source: ICIS news]

A windsurfer takes advantage of Hurricane IreneHOUSTON (ICIS)--Possible flooding from the storm surge and the possibilities of more than 12 inches (30 cm) of rainfall are considered the most imminent dangers to east coast refineries as a result of Hurricane Irene, a refined-products trader said on Friday.

“The problem here is there is little recent history to go by on making these decisions for these refineries because big east coast hurricanes are relatively rare,” said the trader who has 30 years of US Gulf and east coast experience.

Hurricane Irene, a category 2 storm, is expected to gain strength and make its first landfall in eastern North Carolina early on Saturday, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), based in Miami, Florida. A category 2 storm has wind speeds of 96-110 miles/hour (154-177 km/hour).

“The forecasts we have seen are very problematic,” the trader said. “I’d think [refiners] would be seriously considering at least going on standby. This is a very dangerous storm and extremely large.”

As of 1400 hours Miami time (1800 GMT), there were 100 mile/hour winds reported, with tropical storm force winds extending as far as 290 miles from the hurricane.

After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, refiners on the US Gulf made new preparation plans for hurricanes and upgrades to prevent damage and flooding during refinery turnarounds. The trader said these upgrades have not been made to refineries on the east coast.

“Big hurricanes north of the [North Carolina] outer banks are very rare,” the trader said. “Storm surge flooding could be a major issues, [as I] don’t think most of [the] refineries in the northeast have flood levies.”

In addition, Sunday is the new moon, in which tides are higher than usual, which would increase the height of the storm surge.

Deutsche Bank analyst Adam Siemenski said Irene is not like the 1985 Gloria or 1991 Bob hurricanes, which were smaller east coast storms in comparison.

Hurricane Gloria was a category 4 that weakened as it reached North Carolina’s outer banks. Hurricane Bob, the next hurricane to hit the US northeast, brushed the outer banks of North Carolina, intensified to a category 3 storm, and then weakened as it approached the coast of New England.

“This is more like the 1930s and 1950s style hurricanes that were much larger in size and were more historic with their potential damage,” Siemenski said.


By: Sheena Martin
+1 713 525 2653



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