Tropical Storm Barry Eyes Gulf Coast

NACS has prepared resources for convenience and fuel retailers if disaster strikes.

July 12, 2019

STATE COLLEGE, Penn.—It’s been two years since Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc on the oil and gas industry, but the industry hasn’t forgotten how massive flooding shut down refineries and disrupted service, AccuWeather reports. Tropical Storm Barry is expected to hit the Gulf Coast starting today, potentially making landfall as a hurricane.

As of midday Thursday, the National Hurricane Center noted “Barry is moving toward the west near 5 mph and this motion is expected to continue today. A turn toward the west-northwest is expected tonight, followed by a turn toward the northwest on Friday. On the forecast track the center of Barry will be near the central or southeastern coast of Louisiana Friday night or Saturday.”

AccuWeather puts southern Louisiana as the area that could see the most flooding, with 25 inches of rain expected. The Gulf of Mexico region is an extremely vital area for energy resources and infrastructure, with more than 45% of total U.S. petroleum refining capacity. Refineries and the Colonial Pipeline could be impacted by flooding.

“The devastating impact of hurricanes is magnified when they strike the Gulf Coast, because of the potential damage to the country’s fueling infrastructure. Heavy flooding or high winds can damage refineries and offshore production and create supply/demand challenges across the country,” Jeff Lenard, NACS vice president of strategic industry initiatives, told NACS Daily.

“NACS has prepared several resources for retailers in the affected areas facing recovery, as well as resources for all retailers to help address any supply/demand issues in the NACS Disaster Preparedness, Relief and Recovery Center,” Lenard said.

“A problem with the Colonial Pipeline could have a big effect, especially in places you wouldn’t expect, like Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina,” added Dr. Philip K. Verleger, owner and president of PKVerleger LLC, in the AccuWeather story. “There are refineries in the Gulf Coast, in Delaware, Philadelphia and in Europe so the product can get over. [But there’s] nothing over there [in those Southern states]. That’s the area [potentially endangered].”

There are more than 153,000 convenience stores in the United States, of which about 122,000 stores sell an estimated 80% of the fuel in the country. Convenience stores also operate one-third of all ATMs. In areas affected by disasters, convenience stores with generators may serve as the only source of electricity to recharge phones, as well as keep fueling dispensers operational for first responders to access.