CANASTOTA, N.Y. -- Fran Duskiewicz’s biggest concern with the high-powered hurricane named Sandy bearing down on the Northeast was the Buckeye Pipeline.
By mid-afternoon yesterday, the senior executive vice president for the 86-store Nice ‘N Easy chain had not seen any storm-related activity in central New York but was expecting high winds and possibly scattered power outages.
“Our greatest concern is the shutdown of the Buckeye Pipeline, which brings most of our fuel here,” Duskiewicz told CSP Daily News. “How long will it be down and will our area go dry? We don’t have answers to those questions, and we’re not sure when we will.”
More than two-thirds of the East Coast’s refining capacity shut down yesterday ahead of Sandy, sending gasoline futures up more than 4% as operators braced for potentially damaging power outages and flooding, as reported in a Raymond James/CSP Daily News Flash.
With Sandy gaining strength as the vast storm turned westward toward New Jersey, Philadelphia Energy Solutions, Philadelphia, began the precautionary closure of key units at its 330,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) Philadelphia refinery, the biggest in the region, one source familiar with operations told Reuters. The reformer unit at the Point Breeze section is already shut.
Two other plants also moved toward a full shut-down: New York-based Hess Corp. said it was closing its 70,000-bpd refinery in Port Reading, N.J.; and Parsippany, N.J.-based PBF Energy’s 180,000-bpd Paulsboro plant in southern New Jersey, across the Delaware River from the Philadelphia area, was also shutting, a Reuters source said.
Together with the 238,000 barrels-per-day Bayway, N.J., refinery, which Houston-based Phillips 66 began shutting on Sunday evening, nearly 70% of the region’s capacity was on track to be idled. At least one other plant was running at reduced rates, a source said Sunday.
Oil traders were already factoring in a potential squeeze on fuel supplies. “This weather event is only likely to perpetuate strength in gasoline prices,” said oil analysts Harry Tchilinguirian and Gareth Lewis-Davies of Paris-based BNP Paribas in a research note.
Customers Stock up
At Wawa Inc., the Wawa, Pa.-based chain heeding evacuation orders where mandatory, but in a statement on its website Sunday night said it would try to keep as many stores as possible open during the storm.
“Wherever possible, as long as the safety of our customers and associates is not compromised, we will attempt to remain open in order to serve the community and the first responders who count on us during times of crisis,” the company said.
The company closed several of its stores in southern New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland due to area evacuations.
Residents continued to shop all weekend to buy last-minute items to prepare for possible power outages. At Quick Chek in Hopatcong, N.J., c-store employee Rachel Politte told the Hopatcong-Sparta Patch that the c-store had “record setting” sales with the amount of cash that came in and the 30,000 gallons of gas they went through. As of 9 p.m. Sunday night, Politte said the store was completely out of regular gas.
The store, like many in the affected areas, also sold out of bottled water. “It’s been steady, very busy,” Politte said. “A lot of people are very panic-struck.”
Sparta, N.J., resident Sydna Spancake told the Patch she was buying several gallons of water and non-perishable food items in case of another long power outage such as the one she experienced during Hurricane Irene. More than 500,000 Northeast residents were already without power yesterday afternoon, according to numerous reports.
Experts are concerned that Sandy could have a devastating impact on the east coast, especially New Jersey where it’s slated to hit Monmouth and Ocean counties directly, according to the RedBank-Shrewsberry Patch. Heavy rains, average winds of around 30 miles per hour with gusts as high as 80 m.p.h., as well as a full-moon tide, could lead to tidal flooding like nothing the region has seen before.
Keeping an Eye on Fuel
Meanwhile, Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy asked a task force preparing for the hurricane to ensure that fuel suppliers are fully supplied in the state to avoid shortages, according to the Associated Press.
Eugene A. Guilford Jr., president of the Independent Connecticut Petroleum Association, told AP that 1 million drivers arrived at 1,400 gas stations within a few days of the storm. He said the number is about three times the normal demand, creating inevitable spot shortages in Connecticut. Shortages have also been reported in Massachusetts and New Jersey.
Guilford said his goal is for fuel outage to be temporary, with gas stations resupplied each day.
Michael Fox, executive director of the Gasoline & Automotive Service Dealers of America told the Connecticut Post that a spike in demand and impacts from flooding that delay resupplies could cause a major inconvenience for motorists for several days.
The storm comes as low inventories of refined products, especially distillates and heating oil, have stirred concerns of potential price spikes during the winter heating season, Reuters reported.
The precautionary refinery closures are more widespread than during Hurricane Irene in August 2011, when only Bayway--nicknamed the “gasoline machine” because of its key role supplying motor fuel to the New York City area--was completely shut down.
While refiners escaped any serious damage during that hurricane, many fear Sandy’s massive storm surge--forecast to be as high as 11 feet--could breach plant defenses and cause damaging flooding, which can sometimes take weeks to repair. Abrupt power outages can also damage refinery equipment.
Sandy, which was expected to hit land Monday night or early Tuesday and potentially the widest storm ever to hit the area, grew slightly stronger overnight Sunday, with wind speeds up to 85 miles per hour. Tropical storm-force winds extended as far as 485 miles from the center.