Fuel Smarts

Superstorm Sandy Affects Fuel Availability in Region

November 04, 2012

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Fuel and oil terminals and refineries are slowly returning to operation following last week's "superstorm" Sandy, as the government takes steps to try to get oil and fuel to the stricken region.

A shortage of fuel, especially gasoline for vehicles and generators, has led to long lines and short tempers across much of the Northeast. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday that it is likely to continue for at least several more days.


The New Jersey Motor Truck Association has reported complaints from fleets about the ability to get fuel, and that several members have asked about possibly bringing in a mobile fueling station to provide gas for employees and generators as well as for gas- and diesel-powered trucks.

Ports and refineries that supply much of the affected region's fuel were shut down ahead of the storm as well as suffered damage from it, as well as losing power.

However, the Oil Price Information Service says the impact is most likely going to be short-term. Once power comes back, fueling stations will return, racks and terminals will get back online.

For instance, commercial power was restored at Colonial Pipeline's key terminal in Linden, N.Y., and the company was delivering to seven terminals on Sunday out of the 20 connected to the facility, reported Reuters.

South of Linden, Hess Corp. was scheduled to receive its first barge since the storm at its Port Reading, N.J., terminal Sunday night. It also was expecting its first post-storm shipments on the Colonial Pipeline. However, the company's Port Reading, N.J., refinery needs full power to do a damage assessment and it could be several days before it can restart.

The Obama administration is ordering the purchase of up to 10 million gallons of diesel fuel and 12 million gallons of gasoline to be distributed in areas impacted by Superstorm Sandy. It will be transported by tanker trucks and distributed throughout New York, New Jersey and other areas.

This purchase is in addition to an emergency diesel fuel loan from the Energy Department's Northeast Home Heating Oil Reserve.

The DOE is tapping the Northeast Heating Reserve for the first time. It released about 48,000 barrels of ultra-low sulfur diesel for the Defense Department to distribute to local and federal responders in New York and New Jersey, according to Reuters. The fuel was to be used to supply emergency equipment, generators, buildings, trucks and other vehicles.

In New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York, the Environmental Protection Agency waived requirements on the use of Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel fuel in mobile non-road generators and pumps as well as requirements for diesel-powered highway and other equipment needed for emergency response and disaster recovery.

The waivers allow use of heating oil in diesel powered on-road vehicles involved in emergency response efforts in the commonwealth -- but the waivers, which expire on Nov. 13, include restrictions so that home heating fuel is only used to operate equipment compatible with the sulfur levels. Newer model trucks must have ULSD.

Yet heating oil supplies were reported to be dwindling over the weekend, with temperatures expected to dip to freezing in New York.

The Department of Agriculture is allowing a temporary suspension of Pennsylvania's 2% biodiesel content requirement for on-road diesel fuel. The suspension will be in effect through Nov. 12.

Much of the Internet was running on diesel fuel in the wake of Sandy, as emergency backup generators powered by diesel helped many East Coast data center providers provide power for servers and the climate control needed for them.

Meanwhile, Clean Energy Fuels Corp. reported Friday that 49 fueling stations are operating and providing compressed natural gas fuel in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania.

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