Sep 1, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Where it stands: Ida's energy aftermath

Downed powerlines that have either been toppled over or snapped in half
Power lines downed by Hurricane Ida are seen in Houma, Louisiana, on Aug. 30. Photo: Nick Wagner/Xinhua via Getty Images

The restoration of Gulf Coast power services and petroleum facilities won't be quick, easy or clean.

Driving the news: Almost 988,000 homes and businesses are without power in Louisiana, per tracking service PowerOutage.US — a slight improvement from the storm's immediate aftermath.

  • On the petro front, Argus Media notes that "the stage is set for many slow, grinding weeks of refinery repairs and restarts," with at least three sustaining damage.

What we're watching: "Damage assessments are underway at some refineries, but operations cannot restart until power and other essential third-party utilities are restored," the Energy Department said in its latest storm update.

  • Per S&P Global Platts, about 75% of Louisiana's refining capacity was offline as of yesterday.
  • The Interior Department reports that almost all Gulf of Mexico crude oil and gas production remained shut-in.

Yes, but: "The refinery and offshore platform shut-ins are not anticipated to cause any immediate supply issues," DOE said.

  • Platts notes that offshore crude oil and gas output could return to "more normal levels" by the weekend or early next week, though damage to Port Fourchon, a major hub, is another wrinkle.

At the retail fuels level, GasBuddy's Patrick De Haan reports that significant numbers of gasoline stations lack fuel in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

Threat level: The Financial Times reports of Shell's damaged Norco refinery: "Black smoke billowed from the refinery’s gas flares, which the company said in a Facebook post could be expected until power was restored."

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory for Wednesday in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Houma, Louisiana, to Gulfport, Mississippi, as residents swelter without power to run air conditioning.

Chart of Gulf of Mexico crude oil production
Data: EIA; Chart: Axios Visuals

The big picture: The Gulf of Mexico's share of overall U.S. oil production has declined significantly since 2005's deadly Hurricane Katrina thrashed the region.

  • That's among the reasons Hurricane Ida, while pushing fuel prices up somewhat, isn't causing anything near the kind of surge that occurred 16 years ago.
  • The chart above shows how U.S. production soared over the last decade thanks to the onshore shale boom, so the Gulf's share of the total pie is smaller.
  • Yes, but: U.S. refining capacity is still heavily concentrated in the region, so storms can still wreak havoc on the wider fuel system.
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