After the Storm, Part 2 - Hurricane Harvey and the Importance of the Gulf Coast Refined Product Infrastructure to the U.S.

It’s been a year since Hurricane Harvey made landfall and devastated the Texas Gulf Coast, and the Atlantic Basin is once again entering peak hurricane season. Among the widespread and prolonged effects of Harvey was the disruption of refinery and refined product pipeline capacity along the Gulf Coast, which then reverberated in downstream markets across Texas, and the U.S. East Coast and Midwest regions. As such, a closer look at Harvey’s timeline provides key insights into the importance of Gulf Coast refineries to the broader U.S. market. Today, we continue our series on Gulf Coast refining and pipeline infrastructure, and how a natural disaster along the coast can impact the rest of the country.

In the first blog of this three-part series, we set the stage for a discussion of the events that unfolded during Hurricane Harvey, including a description of the Gulf Coast refined product infrastructure and its connectivity to the rest of the country. As was mentioned in Part 1, the Gulf Coast has the largest concentration of refineries in the U.S. with more than 8.4 MMb/d of installed crude distillation capacity between Corpus Christi, TX, and Southern Mississippi. When a natural disaster hits, a lot of infrastructure can get shut down or damaged, and fuel deliveries can become an issue across the country. With that in mind, today we’ll cover the chronology of Hurricane Harvey’s development as well as refinery and refined product pipeline outages along the coast as the storm unleashed its fury.

On Tuesday, August 22, 2017, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) issued a forecast that said a tropical disturbance — the beginnings of what would become Harvey — was sitting over the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico (red “x” in Figure 1 below) and had a 70% chance of development within the next 48 hours. At that point in time, the storm was expected to move into the Bay of Campeche, through the southwestern Gulf of Mexico and potentially make landfall in Texas somewhere between Corpus Christi and Houston.

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