The fuel situation has improved markedly in New Jersey… as I expected, predicted in prior posts, and just about when I projected. The fuel situation has not improved — and probably gotten worse — in New York City and Long Island. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.
Below is an excerpt from today’s New York Times. It blames the difference between NJ and NY mostly on a delay in gas rationing. This is part of the story. I don’t think it is the main part. Rather, I perceive — I am no longer in the region and not able to check-in-person — the key problem is a set of broken connections between the big Linden terminals with smaller terminals beyond the East River.
If this is confirmed as the problem I will have committed the same error that Karl Rove demonstrated in election projections: Mistaking a prior paradigm for current reality. I mistook my (modest) familiarity with the fuel distribution network in the Washington DC region as functionally analogous to the NYC metro market. I was looking for one or two really big nodes to restore. Given the layered density and geographic challenges of the NYC metro fuel market it absolutely makes sense there would be much more inter-mediation in the marketspace. Not looking for it was a serious mistake.
Please read the final paragraph in the excerpt. This is why preparedness and mitigation is so very important. What can be worked out in advance is much more difficult in the midst of a crisis.
The center of the problem was Linden, N.J., oil industry executives said, the heart of the metropolitan supply chain and a place where New York officials have no jurisdiction. It is where the Colonial pipeline ends, bringing petroleum products up from the Gulf of Mexico, and where the Buckeye pipeline begins taking petroleum products to Long Island and other areas.
Six- to eight-foot waves surged through the area, crashing into a Phillips 66 refinery and into a cluster of terminals on or close to the Arthur Kill waterway that receives refined products from the Colonial pipeline and local refineries for shipment throughout the region.
In addition, while the main pipelines have recovered power, 20 or so terminals in and around Linden will take more time to build to normal operations. Eight to 14 are in various stages of repair and limited operations, while 6 are still out of commission. Docks were flooded and damaged, along with equipment that lifts refined product to the barges from pipelines and tanks. The surge blew out control-room windows and lifted and damaged marine docks and lifting equipment essential for putting the products on the barges.
“Hurricane Sandy gave us a major shot to our distribution network,” said James Benton, the director of the New Jersey Petroleum Council, a trade organization. He said the northeaster was a blow, as well, since “it delayed damage assessments for the larger facilities and recoveries for some of the smaller facilities.”
The extent of the damage to the gas-distribution network was not fully understood by state and city officials, said Ralph Bombardiere, executive director of the New York State Association of Service Stations and Repair Shops.
A New York State energy office created amid gas shortages in the 1970s was dissolved in the 1990s. And, Mr. Bombardier said, there was little if any coordination or monitoring of the entire distribution network before the hurricane. “There’s more damage than anybody knew,” he said. “There was no plan or diagram of how this industry worked or who you can call to find out what’s happening. ”
The full NYT story is available at “Behind New York Gas Shortage, Missed Opportunities and Miscalculations“. I contributed my share.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 15 UPDATE:
Good overview in today’s NYT: Gas Crisis Abates