Hurricanes show need to shore up nation’s energy systems, Perry says

Wednesday, 20th September, 2017 - 05:40 PM

September 15, 2017

Energy Secretary Rick Perry said the damage reaped by hurricanes Harvey and Irma on power lines, pipelines and other components of the nation’s energy system necessitate greater investment in shoring up those assets against storms.

“As round-the-clock efforts continue to help communities recover from the devastation of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the need to continue strengthening and improving our electricity delivery system to withstand and recover from disruptions has become even more compelling,” Perry said in a statement.

Nearly 7 million customers in Florida and neighboring states lost power as did some 120,000 customers of the Houston utility CenterPoint.

In Texas, power outages were blamed in part for the explosions at the Arkema chemical plant, where a backup generator failed, knocking out cooling systems that kept volatile chemicals stable. Flooding also overwhelmed pipelines, refineries and storage facilities, leading to leaks of gasoline, benzene and other chemicals.

A ruptured pipeline in La Porte spilled anhydrous hydrogen chloride, a corrosive chemical used in manufacturing, requiring nearby residents to stay inside, shut windows and turn off air conditioners while hazmat teams cleaned it up. Tanks damaged by flooding at Magellan Midstream Partners in Galena Park leaked nearly 11,000 barrels of gasoline. The partial collapse of a tank at Valero’s Houston refinery resulted in the release of benzene and other chemicals.

The Energy Department announced it would be awarding grants worth approximately $50 million across its national labs, “to support early stage research and development of next-generation tools and technologies to further improve the resilience of the nation’s critical energy infrastructure.” The grants are subject to congressional appropriation.

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