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Why the upcoming heavy Gulf Coast rain could mean trouble around the US

July 12, 2019 Destination North America No Comments Email Email

Hurricane Harvey’s impact on the oil and gas industry hasn’t been forgotten. While 2017’s Harvey was a Category 4 hurricane with winds reaching 130 mph, the lesson learned for the industry was all about one word: flooding.

“The rise of onshore [crude oil] production has helped mitigate the risk to production from hurricanes…” Stratas Advisors’ senior oil market analyst Ashley Petersen emailed AccuWeather. “The larger danger nowadays is from flooding.

“If you’ll recall, [with] Hurricane Harvey it was actually the sustained rains that caused several refineries to shut down and this had a much larger impact on refined product prices across the country,” Petersen wrote. Hurricane Harvey was the most significant tropical cyclone rainfall event in recorded U.S. history, both in scope and peak rainfall amounts, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The storm lingered over the middle of the Texas coast, dropping over 40 inches of rain across the region and over 50 inches in some places.

A possible second tropical storm of the Atlantic hurricane season is forecast to congeal over the northern Gulf of Mexico as the week progresses. “AccuWeather meteorologists believe this system has a high chance of becoming a tropical depression and could become Tropical Storm Barry,” according to AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski.

“Our greatest concern is for torrential rain that would result in significant flooding…” Kottlowski said. “A second concern we have is for storm surge flooding.”

AccuWeather sees the greatest threat for flooding rainfall to be in southern Louisiana, where an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 24 inches is expected.

But, having learned from Harvey – the first Category 3 or higher hurricane in 12 years to hit the continental United States – and also 2005’s Katrina and 2008’s Gustav, experts know the interconnected nature of the oil and gas industry could mean problems elsewhere in the U.S. because of Gulf Coast flooding.

The Gulf of Mexico area, both onshore and offshore, is one of the most important regions for energy resources and infrastructure, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. More than 45% of total U.S. petroleum refining capacity is located along the Gulf coast, as well as 51% of total U.S. natural gas processing plant capacity.

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