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Hurricane History - Impact of a Severe Storm

In 2008, Hurricanes Gustav and Ike led to the near-complete shutdown of the oil and natural gas infrastructure and production in the Gulf area, a major supplier of U.S. energy. The Gulf Coast region of Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas is the heart of the nation’s oil and natural gas industry. It accounts for nearly half of U.S. refining capacity and the Gulf of Mexico accounts for about 25 percent of the oil and 15 percent of the natural gas produced in the United States. (Source: American Petroleum Institute, 2009).

To help better understand the complexities of the oil and natural gas infrastructure and the effect on supply seen throughout the country following hurricanes, we’ve compiled the following background information with help from the American Petroleum Institute (API,

Effect of Severe Weather on Refineries

In advance of a tropical storm or hurricane, companies may decide to evacuate all non-essential personnel and begin the process of shutting down production, refining operations and pipelines. After a storm passes, companies must perform extensive inspections and damage evaluations to determine when it is safe to resume operations.

Even if there is no damage, operations cannot always resume immediately. For example, restarting a refinery is complicated and it may take several days to restore full production. The restoration of power supplies is crucial, and electricity disruptions are common after a hurricane.

Refinery operations also can be hampered by a lack of crude oil feedstock if offshore production platforms or ports and pipelines have sustained damage or loss of power supply.

Source: American Petroleum Institute, 2009

Impact from Coast-to-Coast

Refineries and pipelines originating in the Gulf Coast region are major suppliers to other parts of the nation which is why motorists in states far from Texas and Louisiana can sometimes feel the price effects of a hurricane.

According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), half the gasoline used on the East Coast and half of the crude oil run in refineries in the Midwest is shipped from the U.S. Gulf Coast region of the United States.

In 2008, half a billion barrels of crude oil, 1.5 billion barrels of petroleum products – including 791 million barrels of gasoline -- were transported from the Gulf area throughout the country using all modes of delivery, including pipeline, tanker and barge.

Source: American Petroleum Institute, 2009

How You Can Help

When a hurricane threatens to disrupt fuel production, it is important for consumers to conserve energy and not change their buying habits, according to the API. Consumers across the country can help in efforts to recover from disasters by using available fuel and energy supplies wisely and efficiently.

Shell hopes you'll join the companies and their employees in support of the American Petroleum Institute and local, state and national officials who request that consumers conserve fuel and avoid unnecessary driving. Conserving fuel will help provide more reliable supply to drivers in regions where supply is tight.

While Shell works hard to meet the needs of consumers in constrained markets, until refineries and pipelines have resumed full capacity, conservation may be a necessity.

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