With the official open of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season looming, a sextet of organizations representing the natural gas and oil industry on Tuesday unveiled steps their members are taking to prepare their operations and shared lessons learned in recent years.
The American Petroleum Institute (API), American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, American Gas Association, Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA), National Ocean Industries Association and Petroleum Marketers Association of America made available a factsheet and Preparedness Handbook detailing the industry's preparation and response to tropical weather events.
"The safety of our workforce and the environment is paramount when preparing and responding to hurricanes," said Suzanne Lemieux, API's midstream and industry operations manager. "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."
The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season produced 17 tropical storms, about the historical average. A combination of fewer tropical storms and a lessening reliance on Gulf of Mexico oil and natural gas production, thanks to the growth in production from inland unconventional plays, has kept hurricane-related damage to the nation's energy infrastructure and markets to a minimum in recent years.
Last August, Hurricane Harvey hit South Texas as a Category 4 storm, with catastrophic rainfall disrupting lives and shuttering the energy breadbasket of the United States. But even Harvey, the strongest storm to hit Texas since Carla in 1961, couldn't knock out domestic production, and Henry Hub spot prices remained stable.
"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," said Rebecca Massello, INGAA's director of security, reliability and resilience. "Increased supply diversity from inland natural gas production coupled with the fact that nearly all U.S. natural gas is shipped through underground pipelines -- which are largely protected from winds and flooding -- helps ensure that pipelines remain reliable during extreme weather events."
Scientists at Colorado State University (CSU) said last month that they expect slightly-above-average tropical storm activity this year. The CSU team expects 14 named storms to form in the Atlantic Basin during the June 1-Nov. 30 hurricane season, with seven becoming hurricanes, including three major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher). There is a 52% probability of at least one major hurricane tracking into the Caribbean and a 38% probability of a major hurricane making landfall on the Gulf Coast, the forecasters said.
The CSU forecast was in line with one issued by AccuWeather's Global Weather Center, which predicted 12-15 named storms forming in the Atlantic Basin this year, with six to eight becoming hurricanes, including three to five major hurricanes.