Harvey’s wrath halts Gulf Coast oil imports, oil and product exports

Government authorities and plant operators along the US Gulf Coast continued to assess how extensively refineries and petrochemical installations were damaged as Hurricane Harvey became a tropical storm and made a second landfall in Louisiana before heading inland northeast across Mississippi and Tennessee.

Government authorities and plant operators along the US Gulf Coast continued to assess how extensively refineries and petrochemical installations were damaged as Hurricane Harvey became a tropical storm and made a second landfall in Louisiana before heading inland northeast across Mississippi and Tennessee.

But it was becoming apparent that the resulting shutdown of 10 refineries in the region, with a total capacity of nearly 3.1 million b/d or 16.1% of the US total, would have impacts beyond plant boundaries and US markets. Six have begun to restart, which may take several days or weeks to complete depending on the extent of damage, the US Department of Energy’s Infrastructure Security and Energy Restoration Office said on Aug. 31. Two others were operating at reduced rates, it added.

Destruction in the Houston Ship Channel and other waterways not only cut area refineries off from their crude oil imports, but also effectively stopped exports of US crude and products to customers in Canada and Mexico as well as overseas. Ports from Corpus Christi to Lake Charles were closed, with gale force winds possible within 12 hr and all operations suspended except for vessel activities and operations specifically authorized by the US Coast Guard.

“We are continuing port assessments and collecting data on damage, debris, and pollution in order to regain full operation of the affected ports,” said Capt. Tony Hahn, incident commander and captain of the port in Corpus Christi.

Officials at both the US Energy Information Administration and the American Petroleum Institute told OGJ that their staffs would need to determine the destruction’s extent before projecting how long it would take to recover and restore normal operations. But an examination of EIA data from May, the most recent month available, showed that affected volumes not only coming into the US but also leaving for outside markets could be significant.

Crude oil imports into the Gulf Coast averaged 3.2 million b/d. Of the 511,000 b/d of other liquids, 417,000 b/d were unfinished oils, and 75,000 b/d were motor gasoline blending components. The average 208,000 b/d of finished petroleum products included 78,000 b/d of residual fuel oil, 60,000 b/d of petrochemical feedstocks, and 17,000 b/d of distillate fuel oil.

Of the 6.1 average million b/d of US petroleum and other liquids exported during May, more than 1 million b/d was crude oil, while finished petroleum products accounted for 3.3 million b/d (including 1.5 million b/d of distillate, 599,000 b/d of conventional motor gasoline, and 596,000 b/d of petroleum coke). Natural gas plant liquid exports averaged 1.3 million b/d, most of which were 1.56 million b/d of liquefied petroleum gases.

Canada continued to be the No. 1 US crude oil export destination, with an average 372,000 b/d, China with 147,000 b/d, the Netherlands with 108,000 b/d, Malaysia with 68,000 b/d, Great Britain with 63,000 b/d, and Colombia with 48,000 b/d, according to EIA.

More than an average 5.1 million b/d of US petroleum products were exported during May, including 542,000 b/d to Canada, 431,000 b/d to Brazil, 250,000 b/d to China, 239,000 b/d to Japan, 194,000 b/d to the Netherlands, 173,000 b/d to Chile, 166,000 b/d to India, 165,000 b/d to South Korea, 126,000 b/d to Singapore, 111,000 b/d to Argentina, 110,000 b/d to Panama, and 100,000 b/d to Great Britain.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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