Power Supply Manufacturers, Fortifications of the Power Grid for Hurricane Isaac

Following Hurricane Katrina and its devastating effects and damage to the power grid and the crippled pipelines and refineries along other vital energy facilities in the United States, several fortifications and upgrades were applied to the power grid in order to prevent any storms or hurricanes from having the same effect as Hurricane Katrina. Hurricane Isaac is going to be the hurricane that tests these new fortifications and upgrades that the government and power supply manufacturers applied to the power grid following Katrina.

The Colonia Pipeline and Phillips 66 have taken precautions to depend on power generators that were upgraded in case of an emergency if the lights start to flicker. These are not the only companies doing so as they are one of many companies that have upgraded their power generators and rely on them in case of any emergency. All companies had reevaluated and upgraded their power generators to prevent any disruption of the flow of electricity like the ones that were caused by Gustav and Hurricane Katrina when they smacked the Gulf Coast and all of the energy companies that lie very close to New Orleans in 2008 and 2005 respectively. Such disruptions caused great loses and damage, and this is why they have upgraded their fortifications to withstand storms and hurricanes.

The reason behind the vulnerability and the weakness of the pipelines and the refineries is the fact that they solely rely on the power grid in order to operate the pump stations and plants and once the power grid was taken out, they were paralyzed. According to a professor at the University of Purdue named Daniel Aldrich, all of these emergency plants and resources are connected to each other which cause the risk of what is called, “Cascading Failure”.

Power and energy companies were racing with time in order to finish their upgrading process, and the fortification in order to be prepared for Hurricane Isaac. These companies included Colonia Pipeline, Phillips 66, Southern Co. (SO) and Entergy Corporation (ETR). According to sources, Hurricane Isaac is going to cause a foot of rain with sustained winds that will blow with a speed of seventy-five mph which is equivalent to almost one-hundred and twenty km/hour. It is also expected that this hurricane would last for thirty hours or even more.

Emergency Utility Workers:

Entergy Corporation (ETR) has asked for a total number of three-thousand and seven-hundred and fifty emergency workers from nearby states in order to help the company react and deal with the expected blackouts. This was stated by a company spokesman called Mike Burns. As a part of the precautions, the company also started to close the company’s 1,250-megawatt nuclear reactor (Waterford 3) that lies twenty-five miles west of the state.

The exec officer of the company, Charles Rice has stated that the company has invested huge numbers in order to fortify, upgrade and improve the power grid system and the defenses following Hurricane Katrina. He also added that now, the system is as good and as fortified as it can be. Despite the fortifications and the good shape of the system, he said that when the winds are blowing with speeds that exceed fifty mph, no matter how strong the system is, it will have to suffer from power outages.

Hurricane Gustav and Katrina have damaged and disrupted the flow of gas and oil supplies in the entire country which caused the increase of prices. For instance, following Hurricane Katrina and after the total blackout at the state of New Orleans and most of Southern Louisiana in 2005, the gas prices skyrocketed and increased by 17.4 % between the 30th of August and the 5th of September. The prices for natural gas scored the highest prices at 15.378 dollars per each million British thermal units throughout the months following the Hurricane.

After the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina in shutting down almost ninety-one of the oil production that is located in the Gulf of Mexico accompanied by the closing down of 8 refineries due to power loss, the United States of America had to tap into its strategic oil reserve. The devastation of the hurricane reached as far as Ohio and Illinois in the north as they operated at lower rates due to the loss of crude supply.

Gas processors, refineries and pipelines among the rest of the energy facilities can withstand short blackouts, but the prolonged power outages caused the delay of the restoration of these facilities because they solely depend on the power grid. This was stated in 2009 in a report by the Energy Department that studied the impact and the results of the storms.

Another direct result to these outages is that millions of New Orleans’ residents suffered from a total blackout because the hurricane’s storm destroyed miles of lines that belonged to the power grid. It even resulted in the shutting down of 100s of substations and 2 nuclear power plants. On the worst day of the hurricane, 2.7 million people were left without air conditioning and power in four states. As for the worst day of Gustav, it left nearly one-million and half customers with no power.

In order to fight these devastating results of the hurricanes, six-thousand utility workers are now stationed at the point of impact of Hurricane Isaac in order to make sure that the recovery and restoration processes are done as fast as possible. According to the commissioner of the Louisiana Public Service, Eric Skrmetta stated that there were two transmission towers that got destroyed by Gustav which caused a widespread power outage. These towers have been removed, and two towers took their place, these new towers are durable and can withstand powerful storms. He also stated that he doesn’t expect any towers to be damaged or knocked down by storms any more, but he said that it is inevitable to suffer from power outages due to debris and other factors. The restoration process can be delayed due to the low speed of Isaac as the hurricane is moving with a very slow speed of 8 mph northwest.

Colonial Pipeline Co has 8 generators mounted on trucks in Mississippi. One of these generators has the ability to supply 1,600 homes with power. This precaution has been made because Katrina has destroyed 5 of the pump stations of the company back in 2005 which obstructed the ability of the company to transfer fuels to the markets in the East Coast. Other companies took other precautions as the largest refiner in the U.S.A; Phillips 66 has added four-thousand kilowatts of emergency power at its refinery that is located in Louisiana, the Alliance refinery because the storm has caused a total blackout at the plant back in 2005. It also built a wall that is one mile long in order to avoid the occurrence of flooding in the refinery that is able to produce 247 thousand barrels per day.

According to Barry Scanlon who is the president of Witt Associates, despite the stronger and improved infrastructure for the power grid that has been applied following Gustav and Katrina. He stated that the main weak point is to hold communication between the officials whether federal, local or state officials, especially the Federal Management Agency for emergencies and the companies.