Superstorm Sandy shows vulnerability of energy infrastructure

The damage left in the wake of Hurricane Sandy demonstrates both the benefit of the country's distributed refinery and pipeline network and the need for even more diversification.
by Adam Wilmoth Modified: November 8, 2012 at 7:34 pm •  Published: November 9, 2012

The country's pipeline system allows refineries and suppliers to send gasoline and diesel to other regions as needed.

A fire at an Illinois refinery earlier this year shrank fuel supplies in Chicago. Gasoline from Oklahoma and other regions was moved in to help meet the demand.

The fuel shortage in New York and New Jersey over the past two weeks has been caused mostly by power outages that have prevented pumps and stations from working. As the electricity continues to return, suppliers more easily will be able to move gasoline and diesel throughout the region.

If the taxis and buses and ferries return to service and drive up fuel demand in New York and New Jersey before the big refineries reopen, suppliers will move gasoline and diesel in from other areas.

While the storm shows the benefit of refineries, pipelines and storage distributed throughout the country, it also reminds us of the potential threat of having such a large percentage of the country's fuel infrastructure on the Gulf Coast.

Hurricane Katrina was not as gentle to the country's gasoline and diesel markets as Sandy.

Most new construction for refineries and terminals in recent years has been along the Gulf Coast.

With so many of the country's refineries, terminals and storage centers in the same region, disruptions along the Gulf Coast have the potential to create much more hardship to more of the country.

by Adam Wilmoth
Energy Editor
Adam Wilmoth returned to The Oklahoman as energy editor in 2012 after working for four years in public relations. He previously spent seven years as a business reporter at The Oklahoman, including five years covering the state's energy sector....
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