NEW YORK – Superstorm Sandy blew up many leaks in the climate defenses of the tristate, but one of the most difficult problems to solve in the following weeks was how to refuel gas stations.
The catastrophic storm damaged several New Jersey oil refineries and the result was an alarming shortage of gasoline. Supply chain disruptions left thousands of drivers queuing for hours a day at the few service stations that had running pumps. The lines became so long that New York and New Jersey established emergency rationing systems whereby even number plates had access to gas one day and odd number plates the next.
One of the hardest hit refineries was the Phillips 66 Bayway facility in Linden. There, the storm damaged pumps, electrical systems and racks that transport gas to tankers. Repairing all of that submerged water infrastructure took weeks, and industry experts say similar outages at other oil facilities have delayed gas deliveries to gas stations across the tri-state.
Bernardo Fallas, a spokesperson for Phillips 66, said the company made arrangements with a third-party pipeline 10 years ago and was able to resume deliveries to wholesale customers within days. He said the company has called more than 100 employees from other areas of the country to help restart the refinery in the coming weeks.
“After Superstorm Sandy, we made physical upgrades to our Bayway refinery to better withstand severe storms, including elevating electrical equipment and installing stronger storm doors to prevent flooding at the saltwater pumping station. “Fallas said.
Phillips 66 refused to say how much money the company has spent on storm resistance in the years following Sandy or whether steps have been taken to build or strengthen the shores of Morses Creek and Arthur Kill, two meters away from the water. . critical oil infrastructure.
CITGO, which operates a terminal bordered by the River Rahway on one side and Arthur Kill on the other, said the company has spent “millions” on recovery and resilience projects, including rebuilding and elevating electrical substations that are been flooded by Sandy. But CITGO also refused to say exactly how much was spent on those projects or whether the coasts near its facilities are better protected.
In 2015, the nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists released a report that found 120 oil and gas facilities located within 10 feet of the local high tide line. And the group also raised concerns about power plants located along vulnerable coasts.
Edison’s Consolidated Substation on 13th Street on Manhattan’s East Side was devastated by three feet of storm surge as Sandy rocked the East River. Since then, the utility says it has spent $ 180 million just to strengthen that substation.
Improvements include the construction of anti-flood walls around the relay room, the elevation of electrical panels and circuit breakers, and the construction of a new control room on the second floor of the facility, rather than the ground floor.
Steve Clemmer, director of energy research and analysis at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the hardening of the Con Ed substation is a good example of the type of work required in many power plants that are located near coastal waters. . But he fears that rising energy prices will dissuade energy companies from making such expensive investments. To do this, gas and electricity tariffs may have to increase further.
“I have big concerns about it,” Clemmer said.
It is urging energy producers and taxpayers to take a long-term view by investing in hardening the storm now because the economic costs will be higher in the future.
“Events [tormentas] in themselves they are devastating, but then the sequel, when we don’t have electricity or can’t get gasoline for our cars, can have an equal or greater economic impact, “he said.