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Thursday AM September 18th, 2008

image of Gasoline distributors like Shell Oil keep a safety stock level at its terminals for use before and after hurricane events. Ed Mayberry reports.


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Independent wholesalers and retailers run most of the Shell gasoline stations.  But the conduit of product starts in the Gulf of Mexico, as Shell’s Paul Stanifer explains.

“And then everything works its way in — through the crude lines, the gas-gathering facilities — into the refineries.  And then the refineries refine the product.  From the refineries it’s pushed out to these terminals that are regionally all over the country.  Houston happens to have a lot of terminals, being located there on the Houston Ship Channel, and a lot of refineries in the area, so having that safety stock sitting there at the terminal and being ready for these things really helps you when you’re on the recovery effort.  It helps you on the surge in front of the storm, and it helps you on the recovery on the backside.”

Stanifer says Shell keeps its refineries running up to the last minute as a storm approaches.  The safety stocks are important, since it takes time to ramp things back up at the refineries.

“And then it really comes down to how fast you can get power to get your boilers back up, to get your steam generation going, to get all the things circulating inside the refinery so you can get this thing up to temperature and then when you hit these temperatures you can start producing gasoline.  So the reports coming to us is they’ve done their initial assessment.  Minimum damage.  They’ve got some issues around power, but once they get power back to these refineries, it could be as quick as maybe five or six days, or it could go as long as seven or eight days, or ten–depending on the damage and the situation of the utilities.”

Shell is using some of the down time to complete some regular maintenance work at several facilities that was scheduled prior to Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. 

Ed Mayberry, KUHF Houston Public Radio News.

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