Louisiana - The Aftermath - Open Thread

Hurricane Gustav is now past, and we are finally starting to discover what the damage really is. One of the big problems is electricity. There are other issues, including those about infrastructure, that we are only discovering. Let us know what you are finding out.

Darkness and Frustration Replace Fear

The state's power grid sustained massive damage from Hurricane Gustav, officials say, and it could be weeks before all of it is repaired. Frustrated motorists poured back into the state hoping to return home, only to be turned back at checkpoints on all the major highways. Many grew frustrated as they roamed the state like gypsies or sat in motels they could scarcely afford, their cash running low and no way to get more.

"No power, no tissue, no phone, and the lady just came to collect the rent," said elementary school teacher Shondrelle Paul, who with her 11-month-old baby and sister were holed up at the Budget Inn in Gonzales, La. "Money is getting thin."

Across the state, more than 1 million people were without electricity, which meant gas stations were unable to pump fuel, ATMs could not dispense money and restaurants could not open to feed people still unable to return home. Communication was made difficult by spotty cellular and Internet service.

Dozens of hospitals were still running on generator power, several without air conditioning, and there were fears that hundreds of patients might have to be evacuated in the next few days. Only one hospital in New Orleans had the capacity to provide dialysis — though all but one were up and running — and two in the Alexandria area were running low on drinking water.

Entergy Warns of Precarious Power Island Situation in Southeastern Louisiana

Thirteen of the 14 transmission lines serving the New Orleans metropolitan area are out of service due to the storm. This creates a situation where the New Orleans metropolitan area and a corridor along the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge have become essentially an island, no longer electrically connected to the rest of the Entergy system and the electricity grid for the eastern United States. This "island" is south of Lake Pontchartrain and includes Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Charles and upper Plaquemines parishes, which are sometimes referred to as the "river" parishes. Entergy's Waterford 1, Nine Mile Point and Little Gypsy plants are now supplying all power to this zone because all transmission lines leading to and from there are out of service.

"Restoration organizers are assessing how to best tie and synchronize the area back into the Entergy system. This will be a very delicate operation requiring close coordination among generation, transmission, distribution and other Entergy functions," Taylor said. "The greatest risk at this time is that generation in the islanded area could trip offline before Entergy is able to tie back to the Entergy system. If the islanded generation goes offline, all power in the 'island' zone could be lost.

Gustav evacuees kept at bay as impatience, safety collide

NEW ORLEANS -- The road home for the estimated 2 million Hurricane Gustav evacuees was slow going Tuesday, as those trying to filter into the coast were greeted by police checkpoints and National Guardsmen who told them it was too dangerous to return.

Though the storm largely spared New Orleans and Louisiana, hard-hit neighborhoods still had no power, and roads were blocked by trees. With only a handful of communities allowing re-entry, thousands grew frustrated in shelters, sitting on uncomfortable cots and wondering why buses wouldn't come and drive them back.

Gustav Takes a Toll on Already Poor Economy

During Hurricane Katrina, the economy was at its peak, "That showed how incredibly resilient and flexible the economy was in 2005," said Rich Yamarone, Director of Economic Research at Argus Research.

Analysts are concerned that this storm could lead the country to the inevitable recession, "It's another blow to an economy that can't afford to take these punches. It could push us a lot closer to a recession," said Yamarone.

WSJ: Oil Falls on Minimal Storm Pain

A spokeswoman for the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, the only U.S. port capable of handling very large crude tankers, said it can restart operations "fairly quickly" in the wake of the hurricane, though the offshore port hasn't yet been examined. A U.S. Coast Guard said flyover inspection found no visible damage to the facility.

Traders said the closure of hedge fund operator Ospraie Management's largest fund may have been a factor behind crude's tumble in recent weeks. The Ospraie Fund fell 27% in August due to bets on oil, natural gas and structured products, The Wall Street Journal reported, and the fund has been selling off its holdings over the past three weeks.

Note: A lot of good links have been posted on previous open threads about Gustav and its aftereffects. This is a link to yesterday's post.

So all the oil unloading facilities in LA have been shut in now for nearly a week. Is it logical to presume that would cause a glut in the world oil market, eg. tankers already at sea and heading for the gulf now looking around for another port, anywhere near, to unload at any price?

Interesting thought. Where does the oil that can't be refined in the US go?

I would imagine that they would divert to Houston or the US Atlantic Coast in the first instance, with other options being the refinery on the USVI ( a big products supplier to the US ), Rotterdam, or refiners in Europe.

I suspect that products will be a bigger issue than crude over the next couple of weeks.

Except that, if it was a supertanker, it would not be able to offload at either Houston or the US Atlantic coast directly.

The TOPS project is a couple years out, at least. That would at least provide some redundancy, and/or something else to wring our hands over during hurricane season.

Europe is an unlikely destination - the current oversupply in the North Sea has caused the Brent curve to move in an even steeper contango than WTI, with the prompt contracts trading well below WTI levels. If they can't unload, VLCCs will just slow down - the steep contango means that suppliers have nothing to gain by getting crude into ports fast. Remember, every barrel of crude stored for a month earns you $1.40.

"No power, no tissue, no phone, and the lady just came to collect the rent," said elementary school teacher Shondrelle Paul, who with her 11-month-old baby and sister were holed up at the Budget Inn in Gonzales, La. "Money is getting thin."

That is as bad as it can be, because if there another storm headed in the same place, a lot of people will be hard to convince, or will afford to get out of the way this time!

It seems to me that as oil resources become more scarce, it will be harder and harder to rebuild after storms. Electric lines will probably just stay down after hurricanes in some places, as it becomes more difficult to obtain replacement parts and fuel for vehicles. There may be electricity in some "islands", because of what can be generated locally, but it won't be as universal as today.

Replacement parts is really the essential issue. What proportion of replacement electrical infrastructure is made in this country? Do we have big enough stockpiles so that transmission can be re-established in a few weeks time? What happens if we have to start sourcing new parts from China?

When oil resources become more scarce, every company will have to look long and hard at their supply chains. It will be a matter of survival. It doesn't make sense to maintain global supply chains across continents when fuel is rare and expensive unless there is no local option. Companies will seek to minimize transportation distances. This means there will be market opportunities to develop a local industry for about everything but resources that must be imported.

Also utilities can use EVs for their maintenance fleet. They are sitting on the power source and the infrastructure to be maintained will be within range.

How about the frequency of the storms? Can the utilities amortize the grid infrastructure in the average number of years between storms? Getting capital for repairs could prove a challenge.

It doesn't make sense to maintain global supply chains across continents when fuel is rare and expensive unless there is no local option.

I don't think so.

The largest container ships are extremely efficient. If you're using just a tea spoon or two of fuel-oil to move a t-shirt half-way around the world it's going to keep making sense to economize on the cost of labour, the cost of irrigation, economy of scale and other factors instead. Oil would have to cost ~15 000-30 000$/barrel for the cost of fuel to add 1$ to the cost of shipping a t-shirt half-way around the world.

Trains and ships don't even have to use oil. Trains can just as easily be electrified(and they are across large parts of Europe). Large container ships can use a small nuclear reactor just as easily as icebreakers, submarines or aircraft carriers can. Likely candidates are pebble bed reactors like those currently being developed in South Africa and China or self-regulating reactors like Hyperion Power Generation's uranium-hydride reactor with no moving parts(currently being commercialized. Proliferation proof, small enough to be mass produced and moved by rail, truck or ship to anywhere they might be needed. 70 MW thermal, ~25 MWe if you attach a steam cycle heat engine and generator to it).

I think long distance trucking and airfreight is going to hurt first; if you don't live close to a rail station or a port it's going to show in your grocery bills. The last few tens of kilometers could perhaps eventually be handled by battery operated vehicles(e.g. something like this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0f1AlrG8gVU) and/or something like a dual-use electrified tram system where tramcars capable of hauling container(s) share the rail with regular trams.

The container ships might be efficient but something doesn't jibe with what you're saying about how high oil would have to go to make a difference.

Back when oil was $30/barrel more, Jeff Rubin said shipping a container of goods was 9% more expensive (link).

At $200 oil the "tarrif" would be 15%.

Also, the ships have slowed down as oil has gotten more expensive. The market seems to think it makes a difference.

Solar and kite power also reduce costs considerably.

The container ships might be efficient but something doesn't jibe with what you're saying about how high oil would have to go to make a difference.

Here's how I derived my estimate:

Bigger is more efficient and high oil price will drive ships as big as can be accomodated. I base my estimate on the numbers from Emma Maersk(and by extension its sister ships; over 10 of which are either completed or in construction).

It can carry 11 000 20-foot containers, 14 MT each. An empty 20-foot container weighs 2.2 MT. 11 000*(14 - 2.2) tonnes = 130 000 MT of goods.

It has an 80 MW wärtsilä engine as main propulsion with an efficiency of 52% and 5x6 MW caterpillar 8M32 engines(couldn't find the efficiency numbers so I used 38% fuel efficiency, which I estimated from a smaller 5 MW marine propulsion engine on caterpillars website). Maximum fuel consumption is 80 MW/0.52 + 30 MW/0.38 = 233 MW.

It has a top speed of 29.3 mph and a cruising speed of 21 mph. To sustain the top speed it will presumably use all engine cranked up to maximum, consuming the full 233 MW.

29.3 mph is 13.1 m/s. Fuel intensity per km is 233 GW/(13.1*10^-3 km/s) = 17.8 GJ/km.

Dividing through by mass we get fuel intensity per weight: (17.8 GJ/km)/(130 000*10^3 kg) = 135 J/(km*kg). To get a feel for how efficient that is; moving a 1 litre carton of juice 1 km costs as much energy as your body consumes in ~1.5 seconds while you asleep.

Right, but you're not going to ship things at maximum speed because drag goes as the cube of speed and as a result mileage will be proportional to the square of speed(ignoring slight variation in energy efficiency for the time being.). At 21 mph, which is the cruising speed of Emma Maersk, fuel intensity will instead be ~135 J/(km*kg)*(21/29.3)^2 = 69 J/(kg*km). Average engine efficiency including the caterpillars is 48%, with caterpillar auxilliaries turned off it is 52%; adjusting for this we get: ~69 J/(km*kg)*0.48/0.52 = 64 J/(km*kg).

As you mention below, slowing down is a common way to mitigate fuel costs. Slowing down a little bit to ~18-19 mph would bump that number down to 50 J/(km*kg).

The top of that fuel intensity range will be avoided when oil is expensive, so I took 50-100 J(km*kg) as a reasonable estime of fuel intensity for current technology.

A t-shirt weighs about 200 grams and half the earth's circumference is 20 000 km. Using the above fuel intensity that comes out to 0.2-0.4 MJ thermal energy, which is 6-11 ml of oil, which comes to 1-2 tea spoons.

However shipping delays will occur with the use of only giant container ships, which will impact the economics of container shipping.


What is the fuel usage per trip? This ships are huge and so are the engines. They are also pretty much Pacific Ocean going as they will not fit into any of the world's canals. The Pacific is huge. What is the cost in fuel one way to make the trip from China to the U.S. West Coast. At what point will the transport cost overwhelm the labor saving?

Here is one engine specification

Even at its most efficient power setting, the big 14 consumes 1,660 gallons of heavy fuel oil per hour.

A Panamax II (open 2014) can take container ships 2 m narrower than Emma Maersk, but 10 m longer (exact dimensions from memory). Draft depends upon the density of the containers. Worst case, unload 500 containers, rail them across Panama and reload on other side (little oil required).

The Emma Maersk class can pass through the Suez Canal today, even before increasing the draft (as planned for oil supertankers).


Please read this reference.

The cost of transportation appears to be already a pain for some business models. Of course if a low cost alternative not dependent on oil is deployed this assessment may change. Until then, the cost and risk associated with oil in a post peak world are part of the supply chain.

Low-value, bulky goods are the first to feel the strain, as you would expect.

-Should probably read low 'margin' bulk goods...

I wonder where cheap cars fit?


There is a legitimate point here, although I think it cuts oppositely to S's intent.

There is a huge vested interest in keeping things globalized. In particular, in agriculture it is undoubtedly very hard to build up localized production that can compete with industrial agriculture, even with increase costs, including transportation. So the development of localized (and less mechanized) agriculture will be delayed -- at the cost of eventual tragedy.

Because as oil and NG costs go up, along with everything dependent on them, industrial and globalized agriculture will collapse, and we will be left in a far more precarious state than had we not begun localizing earlier. But all the subsidizing goes the other way, towards sustaining the ultimately unsustainable, never in the direction that we must eventually move.

Nobody will grow bananas in Vermont and Brazilian iron mines won't move to a Pittsburgh suburb. Some business models can be unglobalized and others can't.

It doesn't matter. Reducing oil dependencies doesn't need to be an all or nothing affair. What is needed is to reduce usage enough to meet the constraints of supply. A long continuing trend of unglobalizing what makes sense will help for a long while.

For agriculture an hybrid model may prove workable. There are markets around where I live selling local products. It doesn't mean industrial agriculture has stopped. Both models coexist. But increased reliance on local products still saves some oil.

Because as oil and NG costs go up, along with everything dependent on them, industrial and globalized agriculture will collapse, and we will be left in a far more precarious state than had we not begun localizing earlier.

I don't think maintaining centralized farming indefinetely is going to turn out to be that difficult if(and only if) we can fix the food distribution system; that's the major source of oil consumption in food production and I've seen nothing that will allow long distance trucking to continue. There are wild-cards like EESTOR; I'd love to believe it's true but that just seems like a bunch of hot air too me.


Farm machinery is a relatively small consumer of oil. Things have probably improved since 1996, but here's a corn ethanol energy balance study with good data on the energy inputs to farming corn: http://www.usda.gov/oce/reports/energy/aer-814.pdf

Here's the relevant 9-state averages:
Diesel Gallons/acre 8.6
Gasoline Gallons/acre 3.09
LPG Gallons/acre 6.36
Electricity kWh/acre 77.13
Natural gas Cubic ft/acre 200

If you're wondering why there's such a diverse distribution of energy sources when diesel is used for most farm equipment, it's because much of this energy went into drying and processing the corn(some states even used diesel fuel for drying corn; I suspect this practice has ended). At some point, waste heat from a power plant, solar concentrators or natural gas from anaerobic digestion of corn cobs or some other source will make more sense than continuing to use the above. The most difficult part is replacing the diesel for the vehicles, which cannot be tied directly to the grid; pessimistically that's about 10 gallons of diesel per acre, probably much less with no-till and the most efficient farming machinery available today.

10 gallons of diesel allows you to plant and harvest ~140 bushels of corn; that's 3.5 metric tonnes.

Fertilizer is a far bigger energy input and the greatest of these is nitrogen. All you're doing with the natural gas is to steam reform it and use the water gas shift reaction to get more hydrogen gas: total reaction is CH4 + 2*H2O = 4*H2 + C02.

The low-hanging fruit is to substitute methane with coal and do the same trick; you'll get 2*H2 per carbon atom(and a little bit extra since coal isn't pure carbon). It's not as cheap as stranded natural gas, emits more CO2 and heavy metal pollution, but it puts a reasonable cap on the price of fertilizer. This is off the shelf tech and is in use for hydrogen gas production right now.

There are potentially more interesting methods of producing hydrogen. You can produce methane from left over biomass in an anaerobic digester. Not all materials are suitable, but according to http://www.chpcentermw.org/pdfs/061211JasperIN/Sievertsen.pdf if corn stover is digested toghether with manure you can recover as much as 50-75% of the heating value of corn stover as methane. The co-products are nutrient rich liquid that is usable on-farm and nutrient rich compost-like solids useful as fertilizer.

Pyrolysis of biomass is another way to produce some hydrogen gas. Economics will depend on how valuable the coproducts are and how much of the mineral fertilizer can be recaptured in the char fraction. Different kinds of char are being investigated for improving soil fertility(seems to have been born out of the realization that the amazonians used low temperature wood char to make dark, fertilze soils called "terra preta"), as a bonus char is a way to sequester carbon for a long period of time in a stable form. You also get something called pyrolysis oil, which is quite corrosive and not a good substitute for petrolueum in vehicles, but contains interesting and potentially valuable chemicals that could be isolated and is just fine as heating oil(could be used for drying corn).

A pebble-bed reactor or molten-salt reactor capable of operating at 850 degrees celcius can use the thermochemical sulfur-iodine cycle to convert as much as 50% of it's thermal output into hydrogen gas from water. The waste heat is still hot enough to produce a little bit of electricity and could be used for district heating.

Instead of trying to build HVDC lines all across the continent to try and smooth out wind variations you could dump excess wind power into big electrolysers such that you manage to maintain some low level of power output from the wind turbines most of the time and you clip off the peaks with electrolysis. Very clean hydrogen that can be easily used for haber-bosch. Oxygen gas co-product that can be pressurized and sold(hospitals, welders?). Could use stranded wind-resource that nobody wants to develop(the cost of power-lines is a very big part of the economics of wind turbines).

And last but not least, if the economics work out you could produce ammonia directly from electric power, nitrogen gas and water without electrolysis and haber-bosch; this would be more efficient and could be used in the same way as electrolysis. See http://www.energy.iastate.edu/Renewable/ammonia/ammonia/2007/SSAS_Oct200... for more information.

In addition we are getting better at supplying fertilizer to plants when and where they need it; this is being driven by a desire to reduce fertilizer run-off and high fertilizer costs. We're getting better at no-till agriculture which leds to less water loss, soil and nutrient erossion.

None of these ideas may be practical for a full-scale "hydrogen economy", but ammonia production is a much smaller problem than all transportation.

As for the mineral fertilizers they are mined. The uranium available in the phosphate ore is more than enough to power the machinery required to mine the mineral fertilizers and ship them by rail to their destination(50-200 g of natural uranium per tonne of phosphate rock; if you only extract half of that it is 5 to 20 barrels of oil worth of heat with current reactors(lots of room for improved burn-up even without breeders; all reactors get some of their energy from plutonium but don't necessarily produce as much Pu-239 as they consume fissile U-235 and Pu-239), and it's fairly easy to get at with leaching(the industry shut down when uranium got too cheap but it may be revived when there's no more highly enriched uranium from russian thermonuclear "sparkplugs"). Much of the mining machinery is stationary or near stationary(drag lines, pumps, crushers, slurry pipelines, conveyors...); it either is electrified already or can easily be grid connected and powered by electricity.

Processing of the food into something you'd actually want to eat is non-trivial. The usual method in the western world has been to feed it to animals; chicken being reasonably efficient and beef being terribly inefficient; but if worst comes to worst, even polenta(corn gruel essentially) or corn bread is better than being hungry. But if you're not going to feed it to cattle you might as well grow a more efficient and appetizing food like potatos(10-20 tonnes per acre is possible in a good location!) or a more nutritious food like amaranth.

(disclaimer: I'm rather tired right now, so if something in the above seems terribly wrong, it probably is.)

I lived on Guam, which in Typhoon Alley, and has the strongest storms on earth. Guam finally put almost all lines underground. I have called my brother during a typhoon, with winds at 190.
The question is, do we have the resources or the will to do this in the Gulf?

The great thing about NOLA is that they're getting to the PO
destination faster than everyone else.

But this is the best thing that could happen to their electric grid, if NOLA can survive it.

To rebuild after the grid has gone down means most all of the weaknesses have been taken out.

sure is painful though.

"Inertia and procrastination are powerful forces in determining human behavior. It is basic human nature to deal with non-routine problems when they become obvious, not before. Very few people will study the Peak Oil future carefully to determine how it will impact them. Denial is encouraged by pervasive public, media, government, and business ignorance of Peak Oil impacts. Indeed, those who become vocal about Peak Oil face ridicule by the vast majority of the ignorant.

The combination of these obstacles means that only those who have ample resources and knowledge of Peak Oil impacts will be able to relocate, if they act sooner rather than later. Relocation will thus resemble a trickle of the affluent, rather than a mass movement."


One of the problems after Katrina that one of the refineries faced was that the water had got into their control room, and all that swichgear etc had to be replaced, and the delay, if I recall, before it came back on line was more than six months. On the other hand the utility companies are used to collaborating after disasters and work together to share facilities. Thus there were long conga lines of trucks, from a number of utilities - including out-state - that we saw going down the delta replacing poles, transformers the lot at an impressive speed.

On the other hand if you are waiting for new parts that have to come out of Korea then you may be down for a while. (Another example I heard anecdotally about last time).

What proportion of replacement electrical infrastructure is made in this country? Do we have big enough stockpiles so that transmission can be re-established in a few weeks time? What happens if we have to start sourcing new parts from China?

I recall that during the northeastern US/southeastern Canada blackout of some 18-24 months ago, there was some discussion about what would happen if more than a single substation had been destroyed in the cascading failure. At the time the concern was driven by the aging, deteriorating condition of the electrical grid. The large transformers (the ones that look like mini shipping containers) commonly used in substations are very expensive, and though there is still some capacity in North America to manufacture them, there are no more than a few on hand at any time. They take many months to build from scratch. The catastrophic destruction of any significant portion of the grid (no matter the precipitating cause) would create a very long-lasting crisis. If a natural disaster like hurricane, flood or earthquake is the precipitating cause and entails significant destruction of other infrastructure in addition to the electrical grid, the resulting crisis will be ramified and further prolonged.

To get a sense of the extent to which manufacturing capacity remains in the US, visit a home building products big box store and take a casual inventory of country of origin of the various products - particularly those that have 'dual use', i.e., industrial and domestic utility. The same reasons that nuts, bolts, nails, sheet metal, wire, etc. for home builders are sourced outside the US pertains equally to the reasons that drive sourcing decisions in industrial situations.

Construction has moved to the lowest cost/uncertain quality source. New homes are designed to last only 20 years till major repairs are needed.

Industrial equipment is used by the buyers for decades and quality still matters. So your analogy to Home Depot is weak.


The question was not so much one of the quality of goods sold in relation to the expected useful lifetime of those goods. It was a question of the drive to source manufacturing for lowest possible cost of production. Very high quality goods are produced outside the US at relatively very low cost of production. My point was that the same forces are at play whatever the quality or end use of the goods being produced.

The assumptions of globalization have been such that manufacturing capacity in the US has been demolished, dismantled, or allowed to fall into dereliction. The corollary assumption of cheap transportation which underlies globalization has led to a situation where there are minimal inventories on hand of virtually everything. The ability to source products of whatever quality domestically is very slight relative to the needs that would result from a major, infrastructure-destroying catastrophe.

The first time I saw it I was surprised when I was putting together my earthquake kit (since I live in California) that many lists included cash.

After a moment it dawned on me that not only would the ATMs be down, but many hotels wouldn't accept my credit card without a realtime authorization.

Of course, I would have to be lucky to actually get a hotel room after an earthquake. That's when I double checked my tent and water supply.

I'm talking about an earthquake, but floods are the most common and most damaging natural disaster in the U.S. and one doesn't have to live in California to experience them.

Good time for everyone to get their disaster kit complete...

Ever since Katrina I've totally rethought my plans about evacuating. Now I'd rather take my chances with nature (which are pretty good statistically speaking) rather then with an evacuation.

And there's a Cat 4 heading towards the gulf right now.

Don't know the track just yet but it doesn't look good.

If the thing slides between the Keys and Cuba, there'll be hell to pay.

Ike is most likely to curve northward before the Bahamas. Of course the exact timing of the northward turn is still very uncertain, but it looks like Florida or the SE coast are the likely (mainland) landfall. And significant wind shear is supposed to develop, NHC has it weakening to a cat three for this reason. But it is still possible it might go elsewhere.

Of course, a Florida landfall doesn't guarantee New Orleans will be spared. If you recall, Katrina had a Florida landfall before going into the Gulf of Mexico.

Exxon returning workers to U.S. offshore platforms

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Exxon Mobil said on Wednesday it was flying workers back to its offshore oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico after they were shuttered and evacuated for Hurricane Gustav.

"We are returning operations crews to those facilities that were not in the direct path of the storm. We are also moving post-storm assessment teams to those remaining facilities which were in the immediate path of the storm," Exxon said in a press release.

Baker Hughes CEO worried about Gustav hit

HOUSTON (Reuters) - The chief executive of oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc said on Wednesday he was concerned about the effect that Hurricane Gustav would have on third-quarter results.

"In terms of getting back up and getting back to work, we are finding this as difficult as we did in the Katrina period," CEO Chad Deaton told the Lehman Brothers CEO Energy/Power conference in remarks broadcast over the Web.

MARKET WATCH: Lack of oil, gas disruptions lowers energy prices

The DOE said 49% of Louisiana remained without electric power Sept. 2.

EQECAT Inc. in Oakland, Calif., a wholly owned subsidiary of ABS Group that describes itself as the leading authority on extreme-risk modeling, reduced its earlier estimate of total onshore insured losses as a result of Gustav to $3-7 billion, primarily in Louisiana, from an initial landfall estimate of $6-10 billion. However, EQECAT stood by its estimate that "shut-in production for the next year will not exceed about 5% of the production capacity for crude oil, and 5% of production capacity for natural gas," said company officials. They will assess any potential damage to coastal refineries "in coming days."

The Association for Oil Pipelines said Capline and LoCap pipelines, representing a total of 2.4 million b/d of capacity, are shut down Sept. 2. Colonial Pipeline Co.'s 2.4 million b/d pipeline and Plantation Pipe Line Co.'s 600,000 b/d pipeline system that together move petroleum products to most markets east of the Mississippi River are operating at reduced rates.

From the BP website:

"The Capline System is a strategic high-volume transportation resource that cost effectively links Gulf of Mexico and foreign crude supplies to key refineries throughout the Midcontinent area of the United States.

It is a 40” crude oil pipeline that spans 632 miles in length. Capline originates in St. James, Louisiana and terminates in Patoka, Illinois. It delivers to Collierville and Patoka terminals."

Not sure if this link was posted already, but here's a rough map of some of the pipelines in the New Orleans area: http://www.exxonmobil.com/Images/EMPCo/750xV_EasternCrude.jpg

Gustav evacuees begin to return home

Nearly two million people fled the Louisiana coast, including 95% of New Orleans residents. Many are frustrated they can't go home. Millions are still without electricity.

In New Orleans and other areas, only emergency crews are back, clearing roads. However, some communities have begun letting their residents back in, clogging roadways.

In Shreveport, Gustav survivors are stranded until tomorrow, when the buses and trains that evacuated them are scheduled to bring them back home. Many of the state-run shelters were ill-prepared.

Despite three years to prepare since Hurricane Katrina struck, many here believe the government failed them.

The state government is deferring to the towns and cities to decide when to allow people to go home. But when they do go back, residents are being cautioned to expect big disruptions to their lives, like closed schools, supermarkets, banks and gas stations.

Bush surveys hurricane damage in Louisiana

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — President Bush flew over flooded fields and downed trees Wednesday as he kept a close watch on the Hurricane Gustav recovery, in contrast to his administration's bungled response to Katrina three years ago.

"We would caution people not to move back in until their parish president says it's safe to move back in," he [FEMA director Paulison] said. "Most of the areas don't have electricity. Some of them don't have water and there's no infrastructure in place — no grocery stores, gas stations — those type of things."

He said residents who are given the OK to return should bring enough food and water along to sustain them and their families for a few days.

Let's hope that people bring enough food, water and gasoline to sustain them until the power gets back on.

Entergy faces risky power grid repair after Gustav

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Entergy Corp faces the risk of triggering a blackout as it begins the effort of restoring power to Louisiana homes and businesses after Hurricane Gustav damaged major power lines serving the New Orleans-Baton Rouge area, the state's largest utility said.

While New Orleans-based Entergy has warned that repairs to its high-voltage system will be "difficult and slow," Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said Wednesday that power restoration is the biggest obstacle hampering the state's recovery.

US Gulf refineries at mercy of battered power grid

MERAUX, La. (Reuters) - The normally bustling Murphy Oil Corp (MUR.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) refinery in Meraux, Louisiana, stood in eerie silence on Wednesday, apparently undamaged, but paralyzed by a lack of reliable electricity in the wake of Hurricane Gustav.

The plant is one of 14 refineries -- representing about 15 percent of the nation's fuel supply -- shut by the storm. A chunk of that fuel production remains at the mercy of a power system that took a devastating hit.

Bush: Will release SPR oil as requested post-Gustav

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana (Reuters) - President George W. Bush said on Wednesday oil would be released from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve upon request from companies affected by Hurricane Gustav which blew across the Gulf of Mexico and Louisiana this week.

"Last night we got a request from a company doing business here in Louisiana and we met that request," Bush told reporters referring to a request by Citgo Petroleum Corp.

Ensco Reports No Evidence of Damage to 6 Rigs in Gustav's Path

(Bloomberg) -- Ensco International Inc., a U.S. oil and natural-gas driller, observed no damage to six rigs in the path of Hurricane Gustav as the storm made landfall in Louisiana Sept. 1, Chief Executive Officer Daniel W. Rabun said.

...Two of the rigs were ``right in the crosshairs'' of the storm, he said.

Entergy has a long list of broken things on the front page of their web site, as of 11:30 AM Sept. 3, and promises to "update within the hour."

The transmission damage across the Entergy system includes at least 191 transmission lines, or about 40 percent of the transmission lines in the affected area of Louisiana. In addition, 210 substations, or 27 percent, are out of service in the area.

These are some other things from that page:

• In terms of power outages, Hurricane Gustav is the second worst in Entergy’s 95-year history, peaking at about 850,000 early Tuesday – the overwhelming majority of them in Louisiana. That easily bypassed the 800,000 outages in Hurricane Rita in 2005. The only larger number of Entergy outages was 1.1 million in 2005 during Hurricane Katrina, which has been described as one of the worst natural disasters in American history.

• Entergy is assessing damage in order to estimate when electricity will be restored to specific locations. In some areas where the damage is the most extensive or where access is the most difficult, restoration could take several weeks.

• The “islanded” portion of the transmission system in southeast Louisiana, south of Lake Pontchartrain, was reconnected to the Entergy system last night by restoring transmission line connections to the east and west. Despite the successful connection to the area, Entergy’s transmission system has sustained extremely severe damage from Hurricane Gustav, damage that could make power restoration a difficult and slow process, especially in southeastern Louisiana.

I wonder if Entergy is going to find enough spare parts readily available to fix all the damage, or if delay in obtaining parts will delay repairs further.

And then throw in several more tropical storms and hurricanes. We could be looking at some pretty serious disruptions to the grid on the Gulf Coast and East Coast, which will contribute to problems with refining and product distribution.

none of the coming storms (as of now) look to be threats to GOM, thankfully.

Guess we will be lucky and they will hit something like Washington DC or NYC instead. Reduce demand instead of supply.

Jeff Masters thinks Ike will be a threat to the Gulf.

We'll know better once Hanna moves away whether there will be a weaker gap that curves Ike in her path or a stronger ridge that shoots Ike across FL into the Gulf. A Cuba hit now seems less likely, but still possible.

From years of watching their predictions I have learned that betting against the NHC is a losing proposition, and Jeff's predictions are equally sound but tend to go further out. He'll talk about options and possibilities a week or more out, whereas the NHC tries to give "actionable" predictions.

The Gulf IV synoptic scale data and the hurricane hunter storm data will help the models refine in the coming days. I bet by Saturday we'll know close to where Ike is headed.

This makes Bob Breck's call against all computer models and the consensus of forecasters all the more remarkable.

He called for landfall as weak Cat 3 or strong Cat 2. Landed as Cat 2.

He called for Maximum gusts of 80 mph in Orleans Parish. Peak gust at New Orleans City Hall, 76 mph.

He called for a modest turn to the west. There was a modest turn, but less than he predicted.

He called for 5" to 10" of rain in New Orleans. Actual ranged from 3.x" to 6.x".

He called for modest rise in Lake Pontchartrain with minimal flooding on the north shore and "not even stress the Lakeside Levees of Orleans and Jefferson Parishes". 5' rise and as predicted.

The moral courage to call it as he saw it is inspiring !

Best Hopes for Human Judgment and Moral Courage !


PS: For Katrina, I was told that Bob Breck demonstrated how to write your social security # on the inside forearm in indelible ink in order to make your body easier to identify if you chose to stay. About as forceful a message as can be given.

5 o'clock NWS update has Ike as a major hurricane by Monday afternoon, with a path leading towards Miami or maybe the strait of Florida.


Ike has rapidly intensified this evening. An eye became apparent in
conventional satellite imagery shortly after 2100 UTC. Since that
time the eye has become more distinct with a ring of very cold
clouds tops surrounding it. The latest Dvorak data T-numbers were
t6.0 and raw ADT estimates from UW-CIMSS have averaged t6.2 since
2045 UTC. Based on these estimates the initial intensity is set
at 115 kt...making Ike a category four hurricane. Some additional
strengthening is possible during the next 12 hours or so...this
will largely be controlled by eye-wall replacement cycles. However
both the global models and SHIPS guidance indicate increasing
northeasterly shear in about 24 hours and it is difficult to
predict how an intense hurricane like Ike will be affected by this
shear. The NHC intensity forecast indicates some weakening between
24-72 hours due to the shear...but not as much as indicated by the
SHIPS guidance. At days 4 and 5...it appears that the shear will
decrease so re-strengthening is predicted at that time.

If this sucker gets into the GOM, we'll be looking at what....$90 oil? $80? ......$70?!?!?!


I love it when up is down, and down is up.

My prediction right now is 70-80 by late October hurricane or no hurricane climbing to 160 to 200 before Nov 26.

The last time oil was close to $60. in October of 2006, OPEC cut production once; then weeks later again. The price of oil rose steadily as worldwide inventories shrank. In December of 2007 oil was nearing $80 a barrel.

High oil prices brought oil consumption down. As gasoline prices crossed $4.00 a gallon SUV's rapidly depreciated.

India has seen lower auto sales for the first time in three years.

The rate of Chinese economic growth is slowing, the Chinese economy is yet growing.

Corn and soybean stockpiles are low due to ethanol and biodiesel government mandates. The grain diversion to biofuels situation was scheduled to worsen by government decrees already set in motion. Flooding in India and the upper MidWest of the USA this year will have a negative impact.

Round 2.

This looks bad.

Different track, same destination. Meaning warm, undisturbed water most of the way.

Utility companies all along the Gulf Coast are prepared for hurricanes. They have faced hurricanes before and know what to expect and what to do. Days before a storm goes ashore line companies and utility companies’ trucks and crews from out of state are heading towards the area complete with poles, transformers, and whatever else is necessary to restore power. Local residents are used to seeing convoys of utility company trucks converging on wherever the storm is likely to strike. The crews are put up in airport hangers and motels after the storm; typically without electricity. (Go figure) Utility companies across the Gulf Coast pretty much have their act together and have had a lot of practice.

I had an interesting talk with a fellow who worked at the state DOT traffic research lab one day a couple of years ago. He told me that after 2004, when Florida got hit by four hurricanes, they were short some 10,000 traffic lights, and went begging to other states for all their inventory.

Certainly local stocks are limited. A small energy company here was hit hard by the ice storm in December. Normally they carry a stock of 75 light poles. After the storm passed they had 3000 down, including 50 miles of transmission line. It took 10 days just to replace poles so all the substations could turn up (and another week or two before residential areas were all back up).

I can't imagine the effort to repair dozens of substations, some with damaged equipment, plus even more poles. At least here the primary grid stayed up and after a day or two of work there was functioning infrastructure and local businesses to support the influx of workers. It would be a lot worse if there were no business, no support infrastructure, and no power for the work crews.

Too much of our country's infrastructure is "frail", and it's only a matter of time before we make decisions like in the 20's and 50's -- like not living in coastal areas if you don't absolutely have to. We need a port and oil infrastructure, but it doesn't take millions of people to support that. A population density of Wyoming seems to be closer to the bare minimum!

Producers Say 96% of Gulf Oil Output, 92% of Gas Idled by Storm

(Bloomberg) -- About 96 percent of crude-oil production in the Gulf of Mexico and 92 percent of natural-gas output remains halted because of Hurricane Gustav, the U.S. government said.

Energy producers reported that 91 rigs and 599 production platforms still are evacuated due to the storm, the Minerals Management Service said today in a statement on its Web site. About 1.2 million barrels of daily oil production remain shut-in, along with 6.7 billion cubic feet of gas.

Conoco restarts Lake Charles refinery

NEW YORK (Reuters) - ConocoPhillips said on Wednesday it was restarting its 280,000 barrel per day oil refinery in Lake Charles, Louisiana, in the wake of Hurricane Gustav -- a process that could take 10 to 14 days.

The MMS new report is out here. The report says

From the operators’ reports, it is estimated that approximately 95.8 % of the oil production in the Gulf has been shut-in. Estimated current oil production from the Gulf of Mexico is 1.3 million barrels of oil per day. It is also estimated that approximately 91.6 % of the natural gas production in the Gulf has been shut-in. Estimated current natural gas production from the Gulf of Mexico is 7.4 billion cubic feet of gas per day.

The corresponding amounts yesterday were 100.0% of the oil and 95.4% of the gas.

Map from your link. I see several familiar names including Independence Hub, Thunder Horse, Mars and Ursa. Click for larger image.

If this is the damage from a low Cat 2 to Cat 1 peripheral hit, I think the Corpse of Engineers are a bit optimistic to think NOLA can sustain a direct Cat 3 hit.

We are not scheduled to get the Cat 3 protection we were promised in 1968 till 2011.

However, most of the problems have been with private levees and affect other areas of South Louisiana. Without a detailed understanding, and the ability to determine what levees where are problematic, it all seems a mess. It simply is not.

A levee gate over railroad tracks does not make a perfect seal (costs more $ to make one), and a couple of cubic feet per second of water gush out. It would take days of such leakage to flood even a few square miles.

Of course it makes good video to see crews working to plug this small leak with sandbags, etc.


I live in South Louisiana, close to the water. Electricity is always the problem after a hurricane and this one is no different. There is nothing unique or different with this storm. If you live in town or close to a hospital, or close to the electric utilities parish office you get power restored much faster. For Betsy & Hilda it took a bit over two weeks to get power restored. Living on the plantation does have its disadvantages. For Andrew, I had moved closer to town and it took around 10 days. Rita was three and a half days, as I had moved to town and Rita was not as a direct hit. LUS has close to 100% of their customers restored. SLIMCO and CLECO are larger and were harder hit and it will take them longer. Today is a traditional serious bar-b-que day. All the good stuff from the freezer gets cooked, if you have no generator or don't have enough capacity to keep both refrigerator & freezer going. Of course, you should always in invite any neighbor over who doesn’t have a freezer or generator. That’s what Cajuns do, cher.

Here's an outage map from LA Gov's Office from this morning:

Edit: Click for larger image.

100% Power restored by Date & Parish

Sept. 6:
Avoyelles, Jackson, Sabine, Winn

Sept. 8:
Acadia, Lafayette, Orleans, St. Landry, Vermillion

Sept. 9:
Jefferson (upper portion, including Metairie and Kenner), Livingston, St. Helena, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Washington

Sept. 10:
Ascension (except Donaldsonville), St. James, St. John the Baptist

Sept. 12:
Pointe Coupee, West Baton Rouge, West Feliciana

Sept. 15:
Jefferson (lower portion only), Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles

Sept. 16:
East Feliciana

Sept. 24:
Ascension (Donaldsonville only), Assumption, East Baton Rouge, Iberville, St. Martin

Oct. 1:
Terrebonne, Lafourche

Critical Oil & Gas Parishes highlighted.

I have always liked the names of Louisiana Parishes.


From Platts:

Wednesday, 1 p.m.: Refining legend Thomas O'Malley, now the CEO of European independent refiner Petroplus, told a conference today that the "market [was] completely underrating the impact" of Hurricane Gustav on US oil supplies. He estimated that 20 million-30 million barrels of inventory would be lost because of the storm. He compared Gustav to Hurricane Lili of 2002, which he said wiped out about 25 million barrels of inventory from the market. "You're going to see some exceptional cracks" in September, he said.
Betting against Tom O'Malley generally isn't a winning approach.

They have a pretty good blog on the storm which you can find at http://www.platts.com/weblog/oilblog/2008/08/gustava_running_update.html

Another link.
EIA: http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/oog/special/hurricanes/gustav.html?featureclick...

And another. DOE: http://www.oe.netl.doe.gov/named_event.aspx?ID=18

Those are good links.

THe DOE Report indicates that 2.5 million barrels a day of refinery capacity is shut in, and 3.1 million barrels a day is operating at reduced capacity. It is hard to see how we could increase refined product imports to offset this loss of refining capacity, if the production stays down more than a couple of days.

The same link says that 1.2 million people are still without electric power, including 51% of Louisiana. Henry Hub reports no serious damage, but is operating on backup power.

O'Malley is correct, the inventory crisis was poised already. The drag on logistics is incredible. Here is the TWIP inventory from today. Take 20 million barrels out. Look at the stack of storms crossing the Atlantic and try to schedule ships to port. Gustav is significant and more is coming.

I also wonder how much extra gasoline / diesel is really out there to import on short notice. It seems like if anyone else has reserves, they are reserves of crude, not refined products.

I have been looking into contingency plans a lot. There is some flexibility but nothing in the scale of 20 million barrels outside crude. Even with SPR, getting the right stuff to the right place at the right time is an incredibly complex task. I am always amazed that outages are as rare as they are.

It is always a little hard to guess when inventory obstacles will pierce on-hand. EIA used to report minimum operating levels.

I am pretty sure we will have gas lines. Most likely this fall. Once they start, I think they will become a regular aspect of our lives.

Bill, IF you are right, it will set in motion a positive feedback mechanism in human psychology that will also become a regular aspect of our lives. In an effort to 'look out for number one', the 'storage' of petroleum products in our nation will skyrocket - but it will be in jeep cans and backyard plastic tubs and all parked vehicles. If there is a CHANCE of not getting fuel, people will switch from just-in-time to just-in-case...

I think this will apply to nations also. Once oscillations start, it will be hard to get the genie back in the bottle.

I think you should get in touch with Nassim Taleb. He and you think a lot a like. If you have not read his book "The Black Swan" I highly recommend it.

He is a derivatives trader & empirical philosopher. The point of the book is "how to make decisions without being the turkey." Every day the turkey experiences the warm and tender care of humans. Day after day experience reinforces the sense of good fortune, until the day before Thanksgiving when a lifetime of experience undergoes a revision.

That is where we are with oil. We are "picking up pennies, oblivious to picking them in front of a steam roller." He also notes that "history does not crawl, it jumps."

No major damage at LOOP, operations to restart soon

It'll start sending its 30 or so contractors and full-time employees to the offshore terminal in the next days, and resuming operations late Friday or Saturday.

About a week off-line.

Henry Hub lifts most force majeure, sees no damage

NEW YORK, Sept 2 (Reuters) - The operator of the Henry Hub, the benchmark trading point for NYMEX natural gas futures, said Tuesday initial assessments of the Hub complex revealed no serious damage as a result of Hurricane Gustav, and lifted its declaration of force majeure at several receipt points.

Hello TODers,

Just another 'Wild & Crazy' idea?

I am not an engineer, but I wonder if it ever occurred to these power companies to pre-emptively depower, then drop some of the critical HV-wires to ground level before the hurricane hits. My guess is the high voltage metal power towers can easily withstand pretty fierce winds IF they are not also experiencing the multiple directional tugs from hurricane whipped wires. Then after the stormwinds pass-->pretty easy and quick to reattach, then repower that portion of the grid if the genplants are also undamaged.

This could be better than the current plan where the wind pretzels one tower into collapse which then sets off a cascading domino event of pulling down the next 10 power towers. This vastly increases the repair time, difficulty, and cost.

The early, proactive power shutoff & wire unloading will also tend to enlarge the time window for those that should evacuate, thus reducing the chance of a last minute traffic jam getting trapped by the advancing weather.

Wouldn't the Insurance Companies be the lead drivers of this proactive measure?--it could potentially save both them and the power companies billion$$. I welcome any pro or con elaboration.

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

When the CNN "guy in a GoreTex (TM) jacket reporting as a hurricane approaches" talked about transformers blowing and fires starting in the French Quarter, I wondered aloud if it would save any of that equipment had they just cut the power ahead of the storm. I'm not an electrician, but it seems like it might help.

I am "highly suspicious" that the power off at 6:15 AM and Power back on at 5:30 PM was deliberate (which I approve of) for precisely that reason.


"drop some of the critical HV-wires to ground level"

How about putting them underground like in most European cities? Or is ground water a problem?

Underground cables cost multiples of the cost of overhead lines - that is why in Europe in rural areas they are overhead, and only underground when it is vital in the city.

In fact, EDF is in process of placing lines underground in rural areas of France too. After the "Tempete" of 2000-2001, France (and Germany) had to scrounge poles from all over Europe. The magnitude of damage to the power system, I believe, was much worse than caused by Katrina. Winds near the Atlantic coast maxed at 140 mph and way inland it was still up to 100 mph and continued for 8 hrs. There were moving pictures taken of huge expanses of mature forest being blown down, literally, in seconds.

This prompted EDF to accelerate the program to place lines underground. I know they are putting even 10 000 and 20 000 volt lines underground in rural areas. The cost of replacing overhead lines makes burial not look so expensive. With more frequent violent storms seeming to be the norm it probably makes good sense.

I can't think of any respect in which France is not better prepared for peak than just about anyone else - they are being astonishingly competent.

Any idea if Germany also is putting lines underground?

I don't know what they are doing in Germany. Germany was also hit very hard by the two tempetes that hit France a couple of days apart.

There's some talk of mandatory putting all power lines below ground for environmental reasons. Of course cost is an issue there...

The system seems to me quite stable. After Lothar (the 1999/2000 huge storm) 500000+ households in Germany were cut-off from electricity with 95% restored within one day. You can of course blame Germany for overbuilding infrastructure just because Germans over-engineer everything, but still I wonder that the US so far has not build more resiliance into the infrastructure in hurricane endangered areas.

In the US and Britain it appears it is not so much the electrical infrastructure that is decaying and poorly maintained, but the political infrastructure.

It is clear that some regions and nations are enormously better placed than others to weather peak oil, even if superficially they might appear more resource constrained.

I believe that you're referring to the extratropical storm named "Lothar", followed by "Martin." Happened on 26-28 Dec 1999. Here's a short PDF that provides some details on the two storms.



Wolf, yes thanks, I remember that it took place during the Millennium turnover. In answer to a comment above about dislike of underground lines by repair crews. Local power outages in France seem to be mainly caused by trees falling across overhead power lines in rural areas. Farmers try to maximize use of their land and often plant forests or walnut trees right next to little power lines. The media do not seem to mention many problems with underground lines. I would think that most problems would arise when an unfortunate person cuts an underground cable with a power shovel(this could be an enlightening experience). The lines are buried very deep and well marked so this probably does not happen often. Also, power companies usually can locate source of problems very fast.

10 kV and 20 kV are just distribution lines, like the ones outside your home.

South Louisiana has a grid of 230 & 500 kV lines. Impossible to put underground for any distance.


Thanks for that Alan. I am glad to see you safe and sound after the last blow. As you probably noticed I was talking about underground cables in the countryside vs in cities as pointed out by Dave Mart. I didn't bring up the subject of burying high voltage lines because, although I would guess that would be very expensive, frankly I have no idea how expensive.

I think it would be very interesting to TOD viewers to have someone with knowledge in this area to explain what typical (if there is any such thing with different terrain, right-aways, etc.)costs are for burying high voltage lines. It would be interesting to compare this cost with cost for replacement of HV pylons, and lines PLUS the costs for downtime for industries, loss of take home pay, and of course loss of tax revenues. Perhaps Gail could help provide insight into the down time costs for the last two hits on N. Orleans? It would be interesting to know whether it would be cost worthy to protect HV lines by burial.

The cost difference between underground and overground appears to be diminishing, apparently the technology for high voltage buried lines is improving.
Wiki puts it at 11 times underground costs at the moment, although it is not clear if this is high voltage:

Here are a couple of links to improving the technology:


Underground hydroelectric power plants generate electricity @ a maximum of 12 kV or so. They often transform power up to higher voltages inside the mountain and transmit 1 km or so out. That 1 km has VERY high costs.

I think Siemens sells copper pipes suspended in SF6 gas for such applications.

Using wires that are half steel and half aluminum and more closely spaced and stronger towers will be cheaper for HV AC transmission.


I’m a bit late in this thread but I Just want to do some commercial for the European company ABB that developed the HVDC Light (http://www.abb.com/hvdc) for transmitting bulk power.
They planned to build a transmission line in Sweden for 300kV, 600MW and transported 400Km with this technique. I’m not sure if they have started that project but according to ABB it should be 50% more expensive to put it underground.


The linemen I speak with vastly prefer overhead to underground. Almost nasty about it. When a problem develops with an underground line, it's a real trouble and mess to locate and fix. Overhead are comparatively quick and easy. We have alot of outages from snow and wind in the woods, I'd thought it would be preferred underground, not to mention the safety issue. Someone is always getting fried moving irrigation pipe.

"Underground cables cost multiples of the cost of overhead lines"

Yes of course, but there must come a point at which it is cheaper to stop keep replacing the damaged stuff (every three years???), not only based on the initial costs but also the knock-on effects of being without power for days.

But then again I wouldn't build cities below the water level in areas subject to hurricanes.

IMO, it would be cheaper to design more robust towers and, perhaps, space them slightly closer together.

"Value Engineering" carries a price with it.


Alan -

Yeah, 'Value Engineering" is just another name for doing it on the cheap - just like "Value" anything.

It seems almost criminally negligent not to have the network of major power lines designed to withstand the readily anticipated hurricane-force winds the routinely plague the Gulf. When you get right down to it, it's basically an admission that we will tolerate a near total collapse of electrical power along the Gulf Coast at least two or three times a year.

Just as Tokyo has earthquake resistent buildings, so should places like New Orleans have a hurricane resistent electrical grid. But it's all a question of money. It's been my impression that all over the country electrical utilities are skimping on maintenance and infrastructure upgrades. (I know mine certainly is.)

I wonder what the real cost is of all the business interuption caused by the grid being down, and how that compares to the cost of building a hurricane-resistent grid. But I guess we just don't take that sort of comparison seriously, as there seems to be a serious mental disconnect between cause and effect.

I believe that is called deregulation. It has been going on since Reagan. The market just doesn´t seem to work so good with this type of thing.

The first commercial flight into New Orleans (AirTran) just landed.


Just got word from contractor bud in LA...168 transmission lines feeding substations are damaged. Maybe 16 big ones in New orleans, but the reality is a bit bigger statewide.

Hello Hurricane Jim,

Thxs for this info. Do you know how many metal transmission towers are down, or is it mostly just snapped high voltage [HV] lines? I am assuming that any HV power lines going to a substation are routed on towers like this [not wooden poles]:


When these towers get heavily weighted with ice, or heavily yanked in various directions by the wires in a raging windstorm or tornado, the results are not pretty:


From a New Zealand weblink:

...Power supplies to the North Island were thrown into disarray yesterday when high winds blew down three 40m transmission towers in the South Island... The line failure early yesterday caused market-driven electricity prices to rocket in the North Island...Prices in the upper North Island soared yesterday from less than 10c a kilowatt hour to 108c a kilowatt hour.


Why don't they design these towers to automatically drop their lines before the wind or ice can twist them into pretzels? A high wind sensor-circuit breaker could auto-trip the power, then explosive bolts could safely disconnect the lines. They usually have a broad easement or right-or-way underneath these towers.

There are things they need to do with the grid along these lines. Summer and winter transmission rates are set based on line sag - add wind and temperature sensing and total grid capacity would go up maybe 10%. The explosive bolts ... well ... only takes one minivan full of soccer players hit by a falling line to undo all the savings, eh?

I was reading yesterday that many crews working on the power restoration in Louisiana are drafted from the East coast. As hurricane Hanna, Ike et al. get closer to the East coast they will be recalled.

Looks like the electrical grid and disaster response teams may be stress tested by multiple hurricanes in close succession.

We drove down I81 from PA to TN on Monday and passed numerous convoys of power and tree utility trucks. I was wondering whether they wouldn't have to just keep them on the road for the next month, visiting site after site.

Perhaps that's how it begins. The lights go out for some people due to a storm like Gustav and never go on again as the confluence of financial meltdown and multiple hurricanes cause chaos. Power companies struggle to repair the damaged distribution system but don't have enough crews, equipment and spare parts. Financial pressures cause further cutbacks and delays causing logistical problems for field crews. Repair times stretch to weeks, then months and some simply don't get done at all.

I think that is a pretty likely scenario. And what happens is that electricity loss starts occurring about the same time oil loss does.

And how much gas/oil will all those crews burn through while driving back and forth to various emergency zones?

Since I live NW of Atlanta, I am especially interested in the status of the Colonial Pipeline, but this 3 Sept Oil Pipeline Status Report (note: pdf) from the Association of Oil Pipe Lines contains information about all the major lines that run through the Gustav-affected area.

The report wouldn't allow me to copy any text to paste here, but as of this 3 Sept. report the Colonial is still running at reduced rates (no information offered as to what "reduced" really means). Other pipelines--parts of the Plantation line, the Capline, Locap, parts of the Marathon line, and parts of Nustar's Ammonia line--are still down.

I think it is fairly likely one of the reasons for the reduced flows Colonial pipeline is because quite a number of refineries are still off line, or operating at reduced production. The most recent numbers from the DOE seem to be 2.5 million barrels per day off-line and 2.2 million barrels per day at "reduced runs". If you don't produce it, it is hard to ship it. I don't see a way to make up the balance with imports of refined products, so it seems like we may start seeing shortages in a few days.

Part of the problem with reduced flows through the pipelines probably is reduced refinery production, as you say, and part of it seems to be lack of power at some stations. The combination does seem to increase the likelihood of "spot" (across the entire E/SE United States?) shortages in the fairly near future. I am keeping my gas tank above the half-full line for now, just in case!

Not that this will happen, but if either Hannah or Ike forces major evacuations in the next week or so, if gasoline flows aren't back up to normal rates in the eastern US, then things along the coast could get pretty uncomfortable. I am hoping that power in LA comes back on sooner than authorities are expecting, and that Hannah and Ike fizzle out.

New DOE report says:

Colonial pipeline reported this morning that it has brought on-line one of its shut booster stations and the ability to move products now exceeds the supply, with 12 refiners shut at origin locations. Colonial never shut down during Gustav and fully expects to move more product on its pipeline as refiners come back on line.

So now if the refiners get back on line, Colonial can ship the products.

Thanks, Gail, for the update.

I was wondering about the water situation in Georgia. Are you folks actually in need of some hurricane water?

Lake Lanier is 11' below the 49 year average for this date.

Fay added several feet, but that is over and levels are dropping again.



Alan-fbe is right, we could use more rain. The USGS Georgia Drought Watch page links to river-flow information for the state. I live in the Coosa River Basin, home of the Etowah River which is an important source of drinking water for NW Georgia. This morning's posted data shows the most recent waterflow measurement for the Etowah River as 187 cfs. The historic low for this date is 116, the median is 532, the mean is 620, and the max is 2150 cfs. The river is running pretty low.

A big part of our problem is that the electric utilities in Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, and Florida all have fairly high water needs. I believe they use something like 50% of the available water.

When waterfall is even a little low, it squeezes everything else. I don't think people really looked at population growth and true rainfall levels too closely when making plans for the future. There are too many folks wanting to use the same water.

If I recall correctly there is a power plant in Alabama that requires the outflow from Lake Lanier for cooling. When the lake runs dry in addition to the endangered critters in the river there are 19,000 endangered homes on the Alabama coast.

I am fairly certain that is a nuclear power facility. Would it have to shut down sooner than a fossil plant to maintain cooling for the fissile material?

I was thinking a much smaller number, but you're right - it's a nuke plant and it makes a fifth of Alabama's power. Lets hope they get a nice tropical storm or two to refill Lake Lanier.

Florida isn’t the only state that might suffer to slake Atlanta’s thirst. Alabama’s Joseph M. Farley nuclear power plant, a two-unit complex on the Chattahoochee that provides Alabamans with about 20 percent of their electricity, depends on the river system for cooling water and other water needs.


One report about electricity:

Nearly 1.2 million homes and businesses across Louisiana were still without electricity on Wednesday, and officials said it could take as long as a month to restore power to all.

From this morning's DOE Report:

The LOOP reports that they have several days of normal throughput in storage and will begin moving that crude oil when power is restored. Damage to Entergy’s coastal transmission system is delaying power from reaching the LOOP and its offshore facilities. LOOP officials are starting up generators once transportation and communications logistics improve.

As of 17:30 EDT September 3, 2008, conditions have improved at Mobile, AL, port with ship up to 35 feet draft permitted to exit the port. The Coast Guard is working on a case-by-case basis allowing vessels to enter the ports of Pascagoula, MS and New Orleans, LA. Over 200 miles of the Mississippi River from Harvey Canal Lock in New Orleans to Baton Rouge and the Gulf Inter-coastal Waterway from New Orleans to Pensacola remain closed, with the exception of shallow draft vessels. The Coast Guard and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers expect to complete all surveys and open the Lower Mississippi River to all traffic later today, September 4.

Refineries shut down still amount to 2.5 million barrels a day. Refineries operating at reduced capacity has been lowered. Was 3.2 million barrels a day yesterday; now 2.2 million barrels a day.

Electrical outages are down to 1.0 million customers. The corresponding amount yesterday was 1.2 million customers.

thanks Gail - for staying on top of this....perhaps our descendants will have 2000+cc brains, so as to better synthesize the multidisciplinary information overload...;-)

The DOE report this afternoon says refineries shut in down to 2.4 million barrels a day; those with reduced operating volume dropped from 2.2 million barrels a day to 1.9 million barrels a day.

Regrading shut in crude/natural gas, the report says:

As of 12:30 PM EDT, September 4, the Minerals Management Service (MMS) reports 6,477 million cubic feet per day of the Gulf’s natural gas production remains shut-in, equivalent to 87.5 percent of the Gulf production. MMS reports 1,238,167 barrels/day of the Gulf’s crude production remains shut-in, equivalent to 95.2 percent of the Gulf’s crude production.

As of September 4, many natural gas processing plants in the Gulf Coast region remain offline or at low operational capacity due to loss of power and/or lack of upstream production caused by Hurricane Gustav. The plants that remain shut down continue to be assessed or have personnel en route to inspect any damage caused by the storm.

ChevronTexaco is working with wholesale marketers to ensure both its Chevron and Texaco branded service stations are open and replenished with fuel at strategic stations located along re-entry highways to meet the needs of returning residents. Chevron has emergency power generators on-hand for use in the affected areas, if needed. All Chevron fuel terminals which serve the Gustav-impacted areas have fuel and are in operation.

This morning's DOE report shows no change in status of refiners. Also percentage of crude and NG shut in not yet updated.

Electric outages down to 740,000; previously 989,000.

• As of 10:00 AM EDT September 5, the LOOP reported that it has resumed tanker offloading and made its first pipeline delivery.

• Shell reports that it is moving crude oil through the Capline from Liberty, MS to the pipeline’s termination point in Patoka, IL. Shell expects to restart the remaining parts of its pipeline in Louisiana over the weekend using a combination of portable generators and local utility power as it comes online.

• As of 4:00 PM EDT, September 4, the Sabine Pipeline reports the Port Neches compressor stations is down which is impacting 3 points along the mainline system. Available compression at the Henry Hub remains limited as temporary generators maintain operations. Sabine Pipeline’s force majeure remains in effect for those points along the mainline.

• As of 9:00 AM EDT, September 5, there are 11 confirmed natural gas processing plants that
remain shut down, but are ready to operate once power is restored or gas flow from upstream
commences service. In addition, there are 12 plants that have resumed operations either at
reduced or normal levels.

Colonial pipeline (2.4 million BPD; TX to NJ) is operating at reduced flows. Based on previous reports, this is due to lack of product to input.

What happens if Miami has to evacuate? There aren't a host of nearly refineries (I assume?) to help douse the region with additional gas supplies, and they almost have to be at the logistical tail for almost all emergency prep and repair supplies.

How many "hits" can our energy infrastructure take before there simply won't be enough spare and crews to make timely repairs?

A Cat 4/5 Ike sitting and spinning for a few days (like Fay) over mid-FL after trashing Miami would likely be a catastrophe as bad as Katrina. I imagine we'd learn that plans are frail and people are dumb everywhere......

South (and to a lesser extent Central and North Louisiana) are experiencing some gasoline shortfalls. Much is caused by power outages keeping many/most stations closed and those remaining feeding both generators and returning cars.

The open stations (outside of New Orleans, supplies Ok here) keep every pump very busy till the tanks are pumped dry. A wait of an hour or two (generator is running out, it is hot & humid, and they promised more gas ...) and another tank truck shows up with more gas. Perhaps two or three hours of frantic pumping, then another wait.

Some fuel terminals are out of power, so gas has to be tanked from further away. Limited # of tankers (not all drivers are back).

It is hard to determine just where the most critical of several bottlenecks is the limiting factor. But Demand > Supply.

Similar to the post-Katrina New Orleans I returned to,


Gas prices jumped $0.20 a gallon in central Ohio today as oil prices dropped...

Hello AlanFBE,

Thxs for updating us TODers. Concerning the gas pump outages due to no electricity and/or backup generators: why the hell aren't gas stations legally required to have a stationary pedal-bike pumping/metering setup?

I would gladly pedal away for a few minutes to fill up my gastank vs the alternative of pushing my scooter or pickup. I have posted on this topic before, yet I still cannot figure out why this is not legally mandated for at least one pedal-pump per four electric metering stations.

In the olden days, arm-leverage manual gas pumps were the norm:


To my mindset: it would be no big deal when a outage occurs. The gas station owner just wheels them out of storage, then his employees can monitor the operation and collect the customer's cash.

If this idea becomes law, then the electricity the gas stations normally need can then be sent to a hospital, grocery store, or some other critical need. IMO, powering up gas stations should be at the very bottom of the electrical repair list after a severe weather event.

Given that this happens pretty much every year it's surprising that gas stations don't have ... wait for it ... a gasoline generator. I would think that a few small pump motors and one cash register wouldn't take all that much power. The generator could be paid off with the profits from the first few hours of being the only game in town. Do the independents already do this?

Why can't they dispense gas with a hand pump?

My guess: Because they'll have no way to measure it accurately, and no way to accept credit cards since the power/phones are likely down.

Blackouts are rare, here, but cripple our town since nobody knows how to conduct their business without a computer.

From Drumbeat:

Entergy to restore most Louisiana power in a week

HOUSTON, Sept 4 (Reuters) - Entergy Corp (ETR.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) officials on Thursday said power should be restored in 70 percent of the Louisiana parishes where Entergy supplies power within one week as thousands of workers continue to repair damage from Hurricane Gustav which slammed the state's coast Monday.

Entergy officials said transmission service has been restored to 11 of 12 refiners in its territory and enough power should be available to the refiners to allow them to restart operations.

Postal service will return Thursday in New Orleans Metro area, Friday in rest of "accessible" state.


I appreciate your posts and applaud your efforts to stay in New Orleans. But, in the end, it is a lost cause. As westexas says, there were those on the Titanic who knew the ship was going down and those that would know it was going down. Are you ready to go down with NO no matter what?

But, in the end, it is a lost cause

On what time scale ?

The same is equally true of the United States of America and American culture.

Some things are worth fighting for, some are not.


NO as it is may be a lost cause over the next 20 (40? 10?) years. But I think as long as there are people as brave as Alan, there will be an "easy" there, even if it will get to be a smaller "easy" as now.
And even if the rest of the usa stops helping NO, humankind can be pretty stubborn...
I wish you well alan!

And the lost cause may be well over two centuries from now. Get a handle on CO2 emissions and use the sediment of the Mississippi River (three prototypes in operation now, the State of Louisiana has pledged all new oil & gas offshore revenue for more) and New Orleans may outlast the political agreement called the United States of America (Note that one VP candidate was in favor of breaking up the USA, although she no longer advocates this).

 Best Hopes for New Orleans,


From a theoretical point, Miami is a "lost cause" too. Sometime in the future a Cat 5 will hit Miami directly and cause $100's of billions in damage and perhaps kill many thousands. And they'll rebuild and then many years later it will get wacked again. In the end rebuilding will be driven by local demand. Same story for Houston...just a matter of time. Not really so many "lost causes"...just more of the inevitability of natural diasasters. LA is probably the biggest potential "lost cause" out there. The "big one' there will likely damage trillions of $'s and kill 10's of thousands. Not another lost cause...just inevitable.

The last time I checked FEMA's web site (about 3 days ago) they were showing 10,589 still getting assistance from Katrina. Also, they have shelled out 5.7 billion on assistance to displaced families.

Only Road to Port Fourchon Closed ?

LA 1 is the only road to Port Fourchon and it was just reported that
LA 1 is covered with 3' to 4' of sand and is washed out in spots. Military units had difficulty to making an "on the ground" evaluation.

However, this may apply to a section of LA 1 between Port Fourchon and Grand Isle.

A map of area.



This isn't good

Director Ted Falgout said Thursday that Port Fourchon may not be able to receive power for four to six weeks. He also said storm sediment and stones displaced from a jetty may leave one of the port's channels impassable for as long as a week.

Not everyone makes the connection between Port Fourchon and LOOP. According to the article you linked:

Hurricane Gustav leaves Port Fourchon crippled

Three days after Hurricane Gustav made landfall, more than 95 percent of Gulf of Mexico oil production is still shuttered and a key hub for the offshore petroleum industry remains without power.

Gustav slammed into Port Fourchon, a hub used by more than 60 companies to service Gulf rigs and platforms, before coming ashore in Cocodrie on Monday. Port Fourchon also houses the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, a facility that receives about 12 percent of the nation's oil imports.

It is not clear what impact the Port Fourchon problems will have on LOOP, since it has its own power. I will look at the DOE report (from here) says when it comes up later this morning.

I will look at the DOE report (from here) says when it comes up later this morning.

Please do.

That article caught my eye, seemed worth sharing is all.

All the DOE report says is

As of 10:00 AM EDT September 5, the LOOP reported that it has resumed tanker offloading and made its first pipeline delivery.

From Reuters:

LOOP restarts offshore operations after Gustav

NEW YORK, Sept 5 (Reuters) - The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, the only U.S. deepwater oil port supplying crude to about half of the nation's refining capacity, said on Friday it restarted offloading tankers in the wake of Hurricane Gustav.

LOOP added that it resumed deliveries of crude oil from onshore storage Friday morning.

LOOP said its operations, which had been suspended Aug. 30 due to Gustav, were running at reduced rates using emergency power sources until full power is restored.

So it is open, but running at reduced rate. Still haven't seen 10:00am DOE report. Perhaps they are in a different time zone.

Tom Whipple's summary of the current situation from Peak Oil Notes (ASPO-USA e-mail):

While the hurricane did relatively little damage to oil production and processing facilities, it devastated the electric power distribution system in Louisiana so that much refining capacity and many pumping facilities remain out of service. As of Thursday afternoon, the US Minerals Management Service reported that 1.24 million b/d, or well over 90 percent, of Gulf crude production was still shut-in after being closed down last weekend. Twelve refineries, capable of 1 million b/d of gasoline and 700,000 b/d of distillate production, remained closed and another six are operating at reduced capacity.

The Capline crude pipeline to the Midwest is still down, but is expected to begin pumping with the help of emergency generators shortly. The Colonial and Plantation pipelines that move gasoline and other products to cities along the east coast are operating at reduced levels due to inadequate electric power and a lack of product to move.

With nearly all of the Gulf’s oil production closed in for most of this week, and considerably lower refining activity taking place in Louisiana, next week’s petroleum status report will give a better picture of the US energy situation. It could turn out over the next week or so that Gustav did more damage to the US oil supply than the markets initially perceived. As of last Friday, gasoline stocks, particularly along the Gulf Coast, were very low. It now seems likely that the US will lose at least 1 million b/d of refined gasoline for a week or more plus whatever gasoline imports were delayed while the ports were shut.

All this suggests that Gulf and east coast gasoline supplies are getting very close to the level at which shortages could begin.

Today's MMS report

From the operators’ reports, it is estimated that approximately 90.5 % of the oil production in the Gulf has been shut-in. Estimated current oil production from the Gulf of Mexico is 1.3 million barrels of oil per day. It is also estimated that approximately 79.8 % of the natural gas production in the Gulf has been shut-in. Estimated current natural gas production from the Gulf of Mexico is 7.4 billion cubic feet of gas per day.

Also, Entergy reports that 510,000 customers are still without power. From viewing their powerpoint (link on their main page), South Louisiana and New Orleans are still very badly off.

Ike models:

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Jeff Masters thinks there's a 70 percent chance Ike will hit the Gulf Coast somewhere "between the Florida panhandle and Texas"

Here's Masters' educated guess:

20% chance Ike will hit the east coast of Florida.
30% chance Ike will hit the Florida Keys.
30% chance Ike will hit Cuba. If this happens, there is 30% chance it would miss Florida and head into the Gulf of Mexico.
10% chance that Ike will miss Florida, but hit further north along the U.S. coast.
10% chance Ike will curve north out to sea and not hit the U.S.

Overall, I'd give the Gulf Coast a 70% chance of getting hit (including the west coast of Florida).

It is amazing how much models have changed within the past day.

Previously, most models had Ike curving before it hit Florida and going up the coast, but now most models have it going into the Gulf.

Just checked the updated models - 14 out of 15 predict entry into the Gulf.

Particularly interesting was the last report which shifted the track south of the Florida keys. If the track predictions hold true, this is like deja vue all over again.

Because of the different approach, it will not cross waters that have been cooled by Gustav until close to landfall.

The Nymex electronic overnight trading will be very interesting Sunday night.

Let's hope the model is wrong.

Yup, everyone of them jumped. We weren't buying for one minute that slide up west FL. (www.ukweatherworld.co.uk)

I used to monitor systems in the mid Pacific for aircraft ferrying and got a "feel" for it, but the hurricane conveyor from Africa is a different kettle of fish.

Can you, or anyone else explain to me what are the factors for a large hurricane like Gustav, or a smaller but intense, early forming system like Ike?

I understand adjacent systems which affect organization, but as a neophyte, I don't understand the relationship between large and intense, and what conditions are required to achieve both. e.g. Hurricane Andrew?

Any insight would be appreciated.

My husband is an engineer on an offshore oil rig supply vessel, and he just set off from north central Arkansas for a heliport in Galliano, La., from there to be flown to his boat, which is offshore servicing a rig. When he left, he looked more like he was going on a camping trip than to work.

Though I've long been interested in Peak Oil Theory, I've found the practical info on this site about the Gulf and its oil operations to be very helpful and informative. The threads on Gustav and its impact have been invaluable. I've been following them closely. Perhaps I'll have some interesting things to contribute in the coming days, especially if Ike's course affects that of my husband and his boat.