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Growing exports add to annual hurricane risks for US energy sector

Wei Du, utility reliability expert at PA Consulting, discusses steps utilities can take to quickly restore power this Hurricane season.

Read the full S&P Global Platts article here 

The article notes that as the US becomes a larger oil and gas exporter, the annual threat from the Atlantic hurricane season poses greater risks for global flows, on top of the usual risks to electricity demand and domestic fuel supplies. The US exports more than three times as much crude oil and LNG as it did when Hurricane Harvey hit the Houston area in August 2017. The storm did massive damage across the energy and shipping sectors, roiling markets for weeks.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will release its forecast for the 2019 hurricane season which runs from June 1 to November 30, with the most active period typically in mid-August through October. 

The US power sector is hoping to improve the time it takes to restore power to homes and businesses after storms with improved resource management and new technologies.

The five storms that hit the mainland US in 2017 and 2018 cut power demand, at their peak, by levels ranging from less than 7% for Hurricane Nate in October 2017, when it hit the Louisiana area of the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, to more than 70% for Hurricane Irma in September 2017, when it hit Florida.

Some hurricanes result in power outages lasting weeks and months, such as Hurricane Maria devastating Puerto Rico in September 2017. Other storms cause major initial outages that can be restored relatively quickly, such as Hurricane Florence's effect on the Carolinas in September 2018. Up to 1.3 million customers lost power initially, which shrank to less than 180,000 five days later.

Wei attributed part of improved service restoration efforts in recent years to better resource management and technology.

He adds: "Substation flood censors and preemptively de-energizing substations prior to the flooding of critical energized equipment is one aspect that helps quicken the pace of restoration."


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