July 31, 2019
When we think of summer in Texas, we think of heat, holidays, hardball, hotdogs…and hurricane season. The Texas oil and natural gas industry not only plays a role in keeping Texans cooled off and fueled up for summer, the men and women of the industry also make it a point to stay ready for the next storm to threaten our shores.
Over the years, the oil and natural gas industry has worked tirelessly to fine tune preparedness plans designed to protect people, the environment and the state’s fuel supply in the wake of storms. These painstaking plans are the result of years’ worth of post-storm assessments where the industry evaluates disaster response performance and looks for ways to improve.
For example, after Hurricane Rita in 2005, Texas created a Task Force on Evacuation, Transportation and Logistics, which developed a comprehensive slate of recommendations to fortify hurricane readiness, response and recovery plans. In 2016, the American Petroleum Institute (API) issued a fact sheet highlighting industry safety protocols, explaining fuel supply systems and market response, as well as providing helpful tips for consumers about how they, too, can appropriately prepare for and respond to hurricanes and natural disasters.
As storms approach the Texas coast, an army of refinery and pipeline workers and fuel suppliers begin round-the-clock work to ensure a safe and reliable fuel supply is available for Texas first responders and drivers making their way to safety. Depending on the strength of the storm, some refineries need to shut down in advance to keep workers and communities safe. At refineries, dedicated employees form “Hurricane Ride Out Teams” that stay at facilities throughout a storm and work to bring operations back online as soon as it is safe to do so.
Industry’s natural disaster plans aren’t limited to physical oil and natural gas facilities. Communications and coordination is key to the Texas energy sector’s collaborative work with private- and public-sector entities to safeguard communities, the state’s energy infrastructure and its fuel distribution system. As part of this joint effort, the industry is a trusted partner of the Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Texas Railroad Commission, Texas Department of Transportation, Texas ports, FEMA, health care facilities and local emergency management officials. The oil and natural gas industry is also a part of the Texas Division of Emergency Management’s Fuel Team, which works to ensure Texans have sufficient access to the gasoline and diesel they need.
Coordination and ongoing communication ensures that the Texas oil and natural gas industry and our partners can work in lockstep before, during and after a natural disaster.
After Hurricane Harvey, the largest and most expensive disaster to ever hit Texas, the Texas oil and natural gas industry stepped up in ways that matched the storm’s might. The industry contributed tens of millions of dollars to help Texas families, businesses and communities affected by the storm. Company employees provided boots on the ground support to help their neighbors in the communities where they work and live. Some oil and natural gas workers coordinated rescue, relocation and other logistical support for affected families.
Hess Corporation prepared and delivered more than 11,000 meals to their neighbors. Halliburton employees evacuated nearly 100 people using company assets. ExxonMobil provided piping and infrastructure that gave more than 100,000 residents access to clean water after delivery had been compromised. To assist in ongoing relief and recovery efforts, CITGO launched “Fueling Good. Rebuilding Lives.” with groups like the Houston Food Bank and Rebuilding Together Houston to provide financial and volunteer support through 2020 to help get the Gulf area back on its feet.
Some of the acts of heroism following a storm come from individual oil and natural gas employees, who often ignore the damage at their own homes to help their communities. After Harvey, for example, a Marathon Oil employee transformed her home into a community command center, recruiting more than 50 volunteers and offering shelter, supplies and meals to area residents impacted by floodwaters. A Devon Energy lease operator and local pastor helped hundreds of suddenly homeless neighbors after Hurricane Harvey. His church was feeding 500 people a day at one point.
With another hurricane season upon us, we are reminded of the role we play as individual Texans when it comes to preparing for and recovering from a storm. Every Texan can help themselves and their neighbors by maintaining normal routines and not overbuying fuel before or after a storm. As in years past, preparation, conservation and patience after a storm will be key to weathering the season. And when the next storm rolls in, the Texas oil and natural gas industry will be ready.