Hurricane hits US oil storage site, no shortages expected

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Hurricane Laura caused significant damage at a site holding about 30 per cent of the nation’s store of emergency crude oil, but three other sites still have plenty of petroleum, United States (US) Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said on Wednesday.

The damaged Strategic Petroleum Reserve site in West Hackberry, Louisiana, holds nearly 8.2 billion gallons of crude oil in 21 huge caverns deep underground. Brouillette did not specify the exact nature of the damage or say how much it would cost to fix it, but said he planned to tour it.

More than any worries about damage to the federal repository, “My concern is with the people who work at that site” because so many homes were damaged and destroyed, Brouillette said during a livestreamed news conference with Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards.

“Restoring power is our top concern right now,” Edwards said. He noted that 90 per cent of Calcasieu Parish, the most populous parish in the southwest Louisiana area where the storm slammed ashore, remains without power.

Brouillette also said that because the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced demand for oil and gas so much, there is no shortage of gasoline, jet fuel and other refined products, even though two large refineries in the Lake Charles area haven’t been able to reopen since the hurricane.

This file photo provided by the US Department of Energy shows a section of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve facility in West Hackberry, Louisiana. PHOTO: AP