The toll of tropical storm Harvey on southeastern Texas continues to grow and be felt in various ways. With this record breaking amount of rain for the region, structures of all sorts were tested. This included above ground storage tanks in the oil industry. Unfortunately, some of the API 650 tanks did not pass the test.
Shell reported this week to regulators that the floating roof of one of its API 650 tanks in Deer Park partially sank due to the heavy rainfall. Based on such issues, 100 pounds of benzene and 100 pounds of toluene were released. Benzene is classified as a carcinogen by the EPA while toluene is not.
Exxon Mobile experienced a similar issue, resulting in 15 pounds of benzene being released at its refinery in Baytown, Texas. Both companies are taking every effort to safely shut down equipment and minimize emissions. This included taking product from tanks affected by heavy rainfall and debris on top of floating roofs and transferring it to other unaffected API 650 tanks.
Other refineries and chemical plants have also reported similar circumstances where the impact of the heavy rains and flooding have caused chemical releases. With the Gulf region being heavily populated with refineries, chemical factories, and storage facilities, the reports of releases from or damage to above ground storage tanks and factory facilities will likely continue.
Even after the rain and floods have subsided, API 653 inspections of highly impacted storage tanks will likely occur to determine if any API 650 repairs will be needed to correct any damage from Harvey. With so many tanks in the area, this may take many tanks out of commission to amass the needed personnel to conduct the needed API 653 inspections.
The impact of Harvey on this oil refinery rich area will be felt near and far. The largest refinery in the U.S. shutdown production this week. Motiva shutdown its refinery in Port Arthur, Texas on Wednesday. The company reported experiencing limitations obtaining crude oil and sending gasoline out through pipelines and ports.
Additionally, there are concerns about the Colonial Pipeline and whether it suffered any damage during the storm. This pipeline is the major method of distributing gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel that starts in Houston and travels through Louisiana to Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and then to the Carolinas and Virginia. If damage to the pipeline prevents the flow of product, this could cause big issues for the receiving states.
Such refinery shutdowns and pipeline supply issues also likely mean higher gasoline prices for the rest of the country.