Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

November 2, 2012

Power, Communications, and Fuel: What happens when the Three Musketeers disappear?

Filed under: Catastrophes,Port and Maritime Security,Preparedness and Response,Private Sector,Strategy — by Philip J. Palin on November 2, 2012

Some quick aggregation and analysis on three critical nodes.  For this summary I have focused on the current situation in the Greater New York City area.  This is not a region in which I specialize, I would welcome reader corrections.

By “current” I mean Thursday evening, November 1.  This is the oft-referenced 72 hour mark since Sandy came ashore.

Power: 43 percent of New Jersey electric customers (1.7 million),  over 1.5 million New Yorkers and close to 350,000 citizens of Connecticut are still in the dark.  Several utilities report they expect to reach the 90 percent restoration point within the next ten days (November 9-12).  See more details from the US Department of Energy. I have not found any reports of Sandy causing long-term impact on power generation.   (There was a Sandy-related safety alert at the Oyster Creek Nuclear Power Station, but this operation had already shut down for scheduled maintenance before the superstorm hit.)  According to the regional grid coordinator,  even at the height of the storm there was “enough generation available in the region to cover the loss of those generating stations that are out of service because of the storm. “Transmission capacity, especially in New Jersey, was affected. There were 22 230-kilovolt transmission lines out of service because of flooding in substations in northern New Jersey.   The storm compromised 41 transmission facilities in the multi state region most directly impacted by Sandy. But the storm’s biggest impact, as usual, was on the distribution system.  In Westchester County alone over 600 roads remain closed because of downed power lines.  Flooding has seriously impacted buried lines and substations in New York City and other coastal communities. According to reports in the Philadelphia Inquirer, “We had massive damage to our infrastructure,” said Chris Eck, a spokesman for Jersey Central Power & Light Co… The New Jersey utilities lost numerous substations to floods, in addition to losing power lines and pole-top transformers. The substations, which serve large areas of customers, must be drained, dried and cleaned before they can be reenergized. Ralph A. LaRossa, PSE&G’s president, said Thursday that cleanup crews were engaged in “hand-to-hand combat” with filth in substations, using toothbrushes and rags to remove dirt.”

Communications: The Federal Communications Commission reports that one in four cell phone towers were out of service at the height of the storm.  Verizon declared a “service emergency.” Thursday’s Wall Street Journal reported:

Eleven years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Verizon Communications Inc. is once again scrambling to repair severe damage to a key switching facility inside its historic headquarters building in lower Manhattan. The massive facility for interconnecting key communications lines sustained heavy damage after planes struck the Twin Towers more than a decade ago. This time the enemy was water shoved ashore by Hurricane Sandy. The building is one of the worst hit of a number of facilities that carriers were rushing to fix Wednesday… Verizon employees said Monday night’s storm surge was so powerful that it breached the protective plugs that surround cables coming into the building. As a result, water flooded the critical basement “cable vault” that takes in communications cables and directs them to switching gear upstairs, which wasn’t damaged.

AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and smaller wireless carriers were also reporting tower outages and system instability across Metro New York and northern New Jersey.   Wireless providers are not required to report on system status, but most expert observers seemed to agree roughly twenty-percent of the network is still non-operational across the most affected areas.  The power outage is complicating and delaying restoration efforts.

Above: Flooded lobby of Verizon data center at 140 West Street

Fuel: Roughly 25-30 percent of regional fuel refining is offline.  The Colonial Pipeline is expected to resume deliveries to the New York metro market on November 2. This major source of Gulf Coast petroleum product has been shut-down since October 29.  Late November 1 the Ports of New York and New Jersey were reopened to maritime fuel deliveries.  But availability of supply is not — yet — the fundamental problem. Several  gasoline terminals are not able to receive or transfer product because of damage caused by the storm surge.  Roughly 75 percent of the New York metro’s gasoline supply is distributed from terminals in the Linden, New Jersey area. One company executive estimated the terminals at his site could take four to six weeks to repair.  In any case, many gasoline terminals do not have  electricity to pump product.  Utilities anticipate this issue may be resolved over the weekend.  Because of power outages many gasoline service stations cannot pump what they have in their storage tanks.  Mike O’Leary, vice president of Raceway Petroleum Inc., based in Piscataway N.J., said only three of its 50 stations “were able to open with power restored” to run gas pumps cash registers and credit-card transaction devices.  In Paterson, N.J., the state’s third-largest city, the Police Department was trying to negotiate emergency contracts for gas, and short of that, said it would beginning siphoning it from other city vehicles to keep police cruisers running. The EPA has issued emergency waivers through November 20 related to Reformulated Gasoline Requirements in order to maximize gasoline availability in the states impacted by Sandy.

Supply is not the problem. Identifying demand is not the problem.  The network for delivering supply to demand has mostly — though not entirely — survived.

In all three cases the distribution system has been disrupted.  In particular, transfer capability is a serious challenge for each sector. For example, fuel needs to be transferred from refineries, pipelines and barges and eventually into trucks.   The Linden terminals play this function.  The Verizon “cable vault” is analogous to the fuel terminals, as are electrical substations.

Our three heroes share a similar weakness.  Is there a D’Artagnan to rescue them?


I’ve been offline, but (mostly) good news today in terms of gasoline distribution in the NYC metro area:

According to Dow Jones:

NuStar Energy  said the truck-rack facility at its petroleum-products terminal in Linden, N.J., will be back in service by the end of day Friday.  NuStar crews were able to bring a generator from one of its Gulf Coast facilities and procured another regionally to power up the truck-rack bays in Linden. The rest of NuStar’s 4.5-million-barrel capacity storage-and-distribution terminal in Linden remains shuttered until commercial power can be restored and damage assessments completed.

According to Reuters:

In an effort to reduce the impact of crippled fuel flows in the Northeast, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano issued a temporary blanket waiver of the Jones Act on Friday. The move allows foreign oil tankers from the Gulf of Mexico to enter Northeastern ports to provide additional fuel resources, a service usually restricted to domestic vessels. About half of the region’s gasoline and diesel comes from the Gulf Coast via the Colonial Pipeline or via tanker from overseas.

Despite some continued disruptions to supply, other critical terminals and refineries continued to reopen on Friday.

Colonial Pipeline, the 825,000 bpd conduit that ships fuel from the Gulf Coast to the East Coast, said it had restarted a large section of Line 3, its Northeast mainline that runs from Greensboro, North Carolina, to Linden, New Jersey, on Thursday. It also resumed deliveries at its key Linden junction to a connected Buckeye terminal.

“While Colonial’s pipelines and facilities were spared significant damage, many of the terminals in the Linden area will require days if not weeks to fully recover,” it said.

Kinder Morgan said on Thursday it would resume shipping from its New York and New Jersey terminals in the next day or two, after the company brought in generators to power pumps and other equipment. The terminals in Carteret and Perth Amboy in New Jersey and in Staten Island, New York, will begin to receive and move refined fuels in the next 24 to 48 hours.

Royal Dutch Shell said Thursday that all its New York borough terminals were still down. Its Shell-branded network was 84 percent open in Connecticut, 47 percent open in New Jersey, 62 percent open in New York and 83 percent open in Pennsylvania.

Motiva Enterprises said on Wednesday it reopened more of the fuel terminals it shut because of Hurricane Sandy, but four terminals in Sewaren and Newark, New Jersey, and Brooklyn and Long Island, New York, have no restart date.

Magellan Midstream Partners, one of the largest U.S. pipeline and storage terminal companies, said it now has limited operational capacity to receive inbound vessels and barges at its New Haven terminal.

Buckeye Partners said its main New York Harbor area terminal in Linden, New Jersey, was reconnected to its power supply and fully operational by noon on Friday. The company expects its two other New York area terminals in Inwood and Long Island City to return to service by November 2 midnight. The company is supplying jet fuel to the three airports in the New York City area.


According to the Energy Information Administration:

Based on today’s (November 2) emergency survey of gasoline availability, EIA estimates that two-thirds of gasoline stations in the New York metropolitan area do not have gasoline available for sale. This number includes stations that reported no gasoline available and those EIA could not reach after numerous attempts, and consequently assume that the station was closed. Of the stations sampled, one-third had gasoline available for sale, 3% were not selling gasoline because they had no power, 10% had power but no gasoline supplies, and 53% percent did not respond to attempts to contact them.

According to the Associated Press:

The Obama administration is ordering the purchase of up to 12 million gallons of unleaded fuel and up to 10 million gallons of diesel fuel for distribution in areas impacted by Superstorm Sandy to supplement private sector efforts. The Federal Emergency Management Agency said Friday that President Barack Obama has directed the Defense Logistics Agency to handle the purchase of the fuel. It will be transported by tanker trucks and distributed throughout New York, New Jersey and other communities impacted by the storm.

According to the Office of New Jersey Governor Christie:

Governor Chris Christie took action to prevent a fuel shortage and ease the problem of extended wait times and lines at gas stations by signing Executive Order 108, declaring a limited state of energy emergency with regard to the supply of motor fuel and implementing odd-even rationing for gasoline purchases in 12 New Jersey counties.  Odd-even fuel sales will take effect in the following counties at noon on November 3, 2012: Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Morris, Monmouth, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren.

According to Bloomberg Business:

Tankers able to deliver almost 215,000 metric tons of gasoline are waiting outside New York Harbor to unload their cargoes after the worst Atlantic Coast storm in history shut terminals and halted refineries. Six vessels within a 100-mile radius of the port of New York have been waiting since at least Oct. 28, according to IHS Inc. vessel-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg News today. The tankers, also able to carry cargoes including diesel, are probably being delayed because of the storm and would normally load or unload within two days, according to Truls Dahl, a shipbroker at Astrup Fearnley A/S in Oslo.

According to a Fox Business interview with Sal Risalvato of the New Jersey Gasoline Convenience Automotive Association:

The problem with consumer access to gasoline in the greater New York area is not the result of insufficient supply.  Rather it is a lack of electricity at  the fuel distribution centers in the Elizabeth (NJ) and Newark (NJ) seaports.  According to Mr. Risalvato the electric utilities did not have these gasoline transfer hubs on their priority restoration lists until late on November 1.   Since Friday morning there has been a sustained effort to restore power to these facilities and some generator power has been put in place.  Mr. Risalvato also explain that even once electricity is restored, these facilities will not be operating at full capacity due to damage caused by storm surge.

Late Saturday afternoon Reuters provided a helpful update and overview of the situation with the fuel supply chain.

Early Saturday evening the AP filed  a report that begins to set out the key interdependencies at play.

Reuters is reporting:

The 16-million-barrel International-Matex Tank Terminals oil terminal in Bayonne, New Jersey has partially re-opened following power losses due to superstorm Sandy, its operator said on Saturday. The fuel terminal, the biggest in the New York Harbor, is still “coming back online,” said terminal manager Richard Fisette. As of Saturday, around half of the facilities at the site were back to normal operation and the major regional fuel repository was awaiting nominations, or orders to ship out fuel, from its customers, Fisette said. A pipeline serving the facility is operational and damage assessments at the site have not indicated fuel leakage from tanks or pipelines there, Fisette added. (The terminal operator has an especially informative website on the Bayonne facility available at: http://www.imtt.com/index.php?page=bayonne)

According to the Energy Information Administration as of Saturday:

Based on today’s emergency survey of gasoline availability, EIA estimates that 38% of gas stations in the New York Metropolitan area do not have gasoline available for sale. This is a sharp decrease from 67% yesterday.


Reuters has a good overview. Some of their reporting on the underlying supply situation disagrees with my own analysis.  Reuters is probably correct, the NYC region is not my expertise and fuel is on the very edge of anything that might be called expertise.  Still, it’s worth double checking.

Hess, a major gasoline retailer in the NYC metro area, released details of the supply status at all of its points-of-sale, encouraging consumers to select locations with at least 7000 gallons in stock.   This is a fascinating step:  Please see http://hessexpress.com/FuelInformation

Late Sunday the Reuters leads with a new update (otherwise not much changed from above):

The New York Harbor energy network was returning to normal on Sunday with mainline power restored nearly a week after Hurricane Sandy pummeled the eastern seaboard. Yet damage to infrastructure near Linden, New Jersey, a major northeast fuel hub, kept a major refinery and some terminals shut, lending longer life to gasoline shortages that have persisted in the region. Another looming concern was that heating oil supplies were dwindling with temperatures expected to dip to freezing in New York by Monday.

In my judgment that’s just about right.  In terms of gasoline, it will take a few days for deliveries to replenish retail locations — and increased assurance to diminish hoarding — but the strategic shift has been achieved with the restoration of power to the fuel distribution centers and the gasoline stations.  I don’t know anything about heating oil.

This concludes the thread.  If there are major new developments I will generate a new post.

Well, I lied. One more link: On Monday CNBC ran a report on the key role of the fuel terminals and raised some implications: http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000127323&play=1

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Comment by William R. Cumming

November 2, 2012 @ 7:00 am

Excellent post! Terrific story on deployment by FEMA and STATES of emergency generators in WSJ!d DoE reporting 4.5M in Hurrican impact area without power!

Comment by Expectations

November 2, 2012 @ 10:48 am

So folks have always said prepare to sustain yourself for 72 hours to a week, yet again much of the public fails to evacuate, doesn’t think things will be “that bad” based on their own personal experiences, and then wakes up and expects food, water, power, fuel, and cell phones to work instantly across a tri-state region.

Perhaps its time to deal with the way the public actually behaves, and not the way we wish they would?

That gas stations can’t run without backup power -not surprising ( a lesson learned in Florida, obviously not transposed to the northeast).

Okay, that might have been a slightly off topic rant.

That the systems will be restored (mostly) in a few weeks, maybe that’s good enough? Certainly an inconvenience for the survivors, a negative impact on individuals and the economy ( in the short-term, longterm will be a construction boom), but (depending on your timeframe), generally resilient overall? Maybe?

Big opportunity to mitigate during recovery, but New York is notorious for stakeholder groups slowing things down (see how long it has taken to decide and rebuild the WTC).

One for all, all for one! (As long as its in my interest.)

Comment by Christopher Bellavita

November 2, 2012 @ 2:06 pm

Private sector to the rescue?
NCI GREEN: Share with CIKR partners

Subject: For those impacted by Sandy…

I wanted to relay information from Verizon in case you or any of your family/friends can use it.


The company today deployed Wireless Emergency Communication Centers (WECCs) on Staten Island, at Monmouth (NJ) University, and at two locations in Toms River NJ. WECCs offer public access to device-charging and computer work stations, as well as wireless phones and other devices that visitors can use to contact family and friends. We also have mobile stores-on-wheels that serve as fully functioning Verizon Wireless Communications Stores in place at locations on Staten Island and in Sea Girt NJ and Howell NJ.

We’re offering device charging and free domestic phone calls to local residents at all of our open store locations. We continue to re-open stores throughout the area and are increasing device and accessory inventories at stores to meet the needs of our customers.

In terms of our network, we have seen continued improvement overnight with now more than 96 percent of our cell sites in service and serving our customers in the impacted area, including some of the hardest hit areas of the Northeast.

Verizon Wireless continues to deploy its mobile disaster recovery and emergency network assets, including cell sites on wheels and mobile generators, to fortify our network throughout the Northeast where telecommunications infrastructure, utility/power and/or flood damage are issues.

—Additional information with addresses for charging stations as well as help with mobile users.
Due to damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, many households and businesses from New York to West Virginia have been left without power. To assist those affected, Verizon Wireless has opened charging stations in the impacted areas. Charging wireless devices is free and open to anyone impacted by the storm.
Below is a list of locations offering charging stations. This list will be updated as more locations are added.
Monmouth University – Mobile Wireless Emergency Communication Center
400 Cedar Ave
West Long Branch NJ
Thurs: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Red Cross Shelter – Wireless Emergency Communication Center – 10 laptops running on Jetpacks and 40 devices available for use
High School North
1221 Old Freehold Rd
Toms River, NJ 08753
Thurs: noon – 5 p.m.
Fri: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Red Cross Shelter – Wireless Emergency Communication Center – 10 laptops running on Jetpacks and 40 devices available for use
High School East
1225 Raider Way
Toms River, NJ
Thurs: noon – 5 p.m.
Fri: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
North Olmsted
24121 Lorain Rd
North Olmsted, OH 44070
Mon – Sat: 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Sun: 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Rocky River
3460 Westgate
Fairview Park, OH 44126
Mon – Sat: 10 a.m. – 08 p.m.
Sun: 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
6712 Rockside Rd
Independence, OH 44131
Mon – Sat: 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Sun: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
30171 Detroit Rd
Westlake, OH 44145
Mon – Sat: 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Sun: 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Pullman Square
898 3rd Avenue
Huntington, WV
Mon – Sat: 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Sun: noon – 5 p.m.
Teays Valley
4194 State Route 34
Hurricane, WV
Mon – Sat: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Sun: noon – 5 p.m.
123 Prosperity Lane
Mon – Sat: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Sun: noon – 5 p.m.
3000 Charleston Town Center
Charleston, WV
Mon – Sat: 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Sun: 12:30 – 6 p.m.
South Charleston
40 RHL Boulevard
South Charleston, WV
Mon – Sat: 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Sunday: noon – 5 p.m.
500 Cabela Drive
Triadelphia, WV
Mon – Sat: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Sun: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
2054 Murdoch Avenue
Parkersburg, WV
Mon – Sat: 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Sun: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
2837 Pike Street
Parkersburg, WV
Mon – Sat: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Sun: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Grand Central Mall
100 Grand Central Ave
Parkersburg, WV
Mon – Sat: 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Sun: noon – 6 p.m.

Comment by Christopher Bellavita

November 2, 2012 @ 6:22 pm

And later today….


Military to Deliver Fuel to Storm Region
Published: November 2, 2012

WASHINGTON – As long lines persisted at gas stations in the New York metropolitan area, federal authorities moved Friday to restore supplies, turning to the Defense Department to send 24 million gallons of extra fuel to the region and lifting restrictions on deliveries by foreign-flagged ships.

With the reopening of the New York port to tankers on Thursday, and the return of a critical Northeast fuel pipeline to full capacity on Friday, the biggest outstanding problems are the lack of power at hundreds of gas stations and continued panic buying by the public, industry officials said.

Because electricity will not be restored in parts of central New Jersey for 7 to 10 days, gas shortages may still be severe in some areas. As of Friday, according to AAA, only about 40 percent to 50 percent of the gasoline stations in New York City and New Jersey were operating, and even fewer in Long Island, most of them out of service because of power failures.

“We have seen some stations open as power is restored, but other stations have closed while running out of gas,” said Michael Green, an AAA spokesman. “The long lines and supply problems will go away once power is restored.”….

Comment by Irresponsible Governing -

November 3, 2012 @ 9:50 pm

….and how many days has it taken to impose an odd-even number plate scenario and knowing that this storm posed such prospect, why did it take so long to respond for folks tonight are cold, little food, and have no access with so many homes not even seaarched yet in areas – where is the military and the – helicopter drops – to reach the people within a few hours after Sandy departed with supplies especially to reas cut off from water, food and pharam – what a travesty and what a sham – another less impressive, yet s l o w moving nor’easter on Sandy’s heels with far less affect, yet rain and some blustery winds to bring more despair as folks are cold and hungry and a government so self-serving, it has forgotten its pledge to constituent – to the Mayor…like Joe Biden…what a fool with all your money as your lust in power and self-absorbed ways ois now so evident and we hear from folks on television being interviewed….

A government so impressed with itself seeking to impose itself in every way and so, so unprepared –what a pity. A travesty!

An America so hoodwinked by such arrogance in demeanor, empty rhetorical orations and willing to watch the murder and leaving behind of our men – sorry, We the People do not leave a man behind nor the People so adversely affected by Sandy – supplies are enroute as we have been packaging them for now We must wait until January for President Romney to be sworn into office until experience dictates timely and appropriate response – not this charade in every way….

Christopher Tingus
“Main Street USA”

Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » Supply and Demand in Disasters

November 4, 2012 @ 6:35 am

[…] I have continued to aggregate fuel-related stories to the Friday post below. […]

Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » Learning from Sandy

November 29, 2012 @ 12:11 am

[…] the immediate response to Sandy.  HLSWatch has already given considerable attention to this issue here, here and here.  Yesterday Joshua Schneyer and Selam Gebrekidan with Reuters filed an excellent […]

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