As Hurricane Ida began toppling transmission towers and knocking out water systems across southeast Louisiana, another vital infrastructure system was slowly falling apart: gasoline distribution.
Lines of fuel tankers were already backing up at refineries by the time Ida smashed into the state, damaging several of the facilities and leaving seven Louisiana refiners out of production. None of those seven was fully operating as of Wednesday, according to the state Department of Environmental Quality, though at least two had begun the complex process of restarting.
Then came the closures of hundreds of gas stations that were pummeled by the vicious winds, funneling customers to a select few pumps that had power. Meanwhile, demand for fuel had skyrocketed: First, hundreds of thousands of people evacuated by car. And then a million-plus homes and businesses were left without power, many of them turning to gas-powered generators.
The resulting shortage has created scenes of desperation, anxiety and violence at gas pumps.
Long lines at gas stations all across Southern Louisiana
Fight over gas led to one person shot in Livingston
The owner of Frog’s at Magnolia Beach said the two got in an argument over gasoline before shots were fired.
Half the gas stations in New Orleans and Baton Rouge are without fuel
As of 7 am CT on Wednesday, more than half of the gas stations in Baton Rouge (52.7%) and New Orleans (52.3%) were without fuel, according to outage figures compiled by GasBuddy. Nearly 13% of the gas stations in Louisiana are also being reported as without fuel.
These outages do not include gas stations that can’t service customers because they remain without power, GasBuddy said.
Widespread gas shortages hit Louisiana after Hurricane Ida
FOX Business received another report of an individual waiting from around11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. before they were able to finally get to the pump at the Meraux Quick Stop outside Chalmette, after using up a quarter tank of gas while in line.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during a media briefing that the DOT would “extend and amend an emergency declaration that offers temporary flexibility to how many hours a truck driver can drive the supplies nationally to goods that support the covid-19 response and will now include gasoline and other types of fuel, building materials, medical supplies and food.”
She said that the EPA had “approved emergency fuel waivers for Louisiana and Mississippi, affected immediately, which will expand the supply of gasoline that can be sold in these two states and increase availability at this critical time.”
Photos show black slick in water near Gulf oil rig after Ida
The NOAA photos show a black slick floating in the Gulf near a large rig with the name Enterprise Offshore Drilling painted on its helipad. The company, based in Houston, did not immediately respond to requests for comment by phone or email Wednesday.
Aerial photos taken by NOAA on Tuesday also show significant flooding to the massive Phillips 66 Alliance Refinery along the bank of the Mississippi River, just south of New Orleans. In some sections of the refinery, rainbow sheen is visible on the water leading toward the river.
All told, seven Louisiana refineries remained shuttered Wednesday. Combined, they account for about 9% of all U.S. refining capacity, according to the U.S. Energy Department. Some refineries on the Mississippi River reported damage to their docks from barges that broke loose during the storm.
Port Fourchon, which took a direct hit from the storm, is the primary service hub for hundreds of oil and gas rigs offshore. The port also contains oil terminals and pipelines that account for about 90% of the oil and gas production from the Gulf.
Photos taken by AP from a chartered helicopter Tuesday, as well as the NOAA imagery, show extensive damage to the sprawling facility, including sunken vessels, collapsed structures and more than a dozen large overturned fuel storage tanks.
About 80% of oil production and 83% of gas production remained off line on Wednesday afternoon, according to the latest stats from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), amounting to about 1.45 million barrels per day of oil and nearly 1.9 billion cubic feet per day of gas.
A few companies, including BHP and Murphy Oil, took first steps for restarting offshore production. But they were in the minority. Just 39 of the 288 platforms evacuated last week had received new crews by Wednesday, according to the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
Some pipeline and oil processing facilities were able to resume operations. But most were hampered by power outages, lack of supplies and damages caused by the powerful winds. Port Fourchon, Louisiana, a vital center of offshore logistics, was left without power and water and its roads closed to all but emergency vehicles.
“The area is completely devastated,” said Tony Odak, chief operating officer of Stone Oil Distributor, a top supplier of fuel to the offshore industry. His company was relocating some activities to western Louisiana as part of its recovery plan.
h/t Daniel Higdon