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Report: Gulf Petrochemical Facilities Not Ready for Storms

By Evelina Burnett | Published 12 Aug 2013 06:00am | comments
Sheen from offshore oil and gas infrastructure in Barataria Bay, Louisiana. Credit: Jonathan Henderson, Gulf Restoration Network

A new report claims Gulf oil, chemical and coal facilities are not prepared for storms, leading to high levels of air and water pollution when tropical systems sweep through the region.  MPB Gulf Coast reporter Evelina Burnett speaks with a Mississippi refinery to see what they’re doing to prepare as we move into the height of the hurricane season.

More than 341,000 gallons of oil, chemicals and untreated waste water and 192 tons of gases were released by Louisiana coal and petrochemical facilities during Hurricane Isaac last year. That’s according to a new report by the Gulf Monitoring Consortium. Jonathan Henderson is with the Gulf Restoration Network, a member of the consortium. He says the refineries are not ready for predictable events, such as hurricanes. 

The consortium’s report didn’t look at Mississippi facilities. The Mississippi coast’s only refinery, Chevron in Pascagoula, had one reported incident immediately after Hurricane Isaac when heavy rains damaged the lids on five storage tanks, releasing gasoline vapors.

Operations manager Joe Robison says the facility, which opened in 1963, has a long history of dealing with hurricanes. In 1999, after Hurricane Georges, they built a dyke all the way around the facility. Robison says, for the safety of their employees, they shut down the facility 24 hours before wind speeds reach 60 miles per hour.

Chevron uses data from the National Weather Service and two other private weather services to keep a close eye on what the weather will be in their exact location. They track storms from the  

Robison says it takes three to five days to shut down the facility.

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Gulf Restoration Network’s Henderson also says Mississippians should consider the findings when discussing the possibility of drilling in Mississippi waters.

"If the state succeeds in opening up these areas, what you'll have is a lot of pipelines and wellheads and storage facilities, much like there is in Louisiana and Texas and off the coast of Dauphin Island in Alabama," he says. "It's infrastructure that's virtually indefensible when it comes to a very powerful storm."

The Gulf Restoration Network is one of several groups opposed to offshore drilling in Mississippi. Rules for offshore gas and oil exploration and leasing were approved by the state last year. 

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Read the full report here: Lessons from Hurricane Isaac

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Sheen from offshore oil and gas infrastructure in Barataria Bay, Louisiana. Credit: Jonathan Henderson, Gulf Restoration Network


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