Home Investing News Texas power outages hinder Hurricane Beryl recovery, delay oil infrastructure restarts

Texas power outages hinder Hurricane Beryl recovery, delay oil infrastructure restarts

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By Arathy Somasekhar, Marianna Parraga and Curtis Williams

HOUSTON (Reuters) -About 1.65 million customers remained without power in the U.S. state of Texas on Wednesday, two days after Hurricane Beryl made landfall, as progress to restore electricity was slow the night before, hampering efforts to quickly restart critical oil infrastructure.

The storm made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane on Monday near the coastal town of Matagorda, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from Houston, lashing Texas with heavy winds that knocked down power lines and damaged property.

“When you don’t have power, when it’s pitch black at night, when it’s as hot as 80 (degrees Fahrenheit) during the day, and you don’t have access to food you normally have, it’s a miserable situation,” Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick told a press conference on Wednesday in Matagorda.

State officials promised as many cooling stations as possible to help citizens without power, hospital beds and a plan to remove debris. President Joe Biden on Tuesday approved a major disaster declaration for Beryl.

Reinsurance broker Gallagher Re estimated that U.S. economic losses from Beryl would be at least $1 billion as damage assessments continue. Weather forecasting firm AccuWeather issued a preliminary estimate of $28 billion to $32 billion in U.S. damage and economic loss.

About 1.35 million of the 1.65 million people without power are customers of CenterPoint Energy (NYSE:CNP), the state’s largest provider.

CenterPoint said on Wednesday it had restored power to some 900,000 customers in the previous 24 hours, adding that it remains confident it will restore 1 million customers by the end of the day.

In a letter to CenterPoint on Wednesday, congresswoman Sylvia Garcia said the company’s inability to restore power more quickly was creating a public health crisis. “Hospitals are now unable to send patients home where they lack power for medical equipment or an appropriately cool environment for their conditions.”

RESTORING OPERATIONS

Freeport LNG, the second largest U.S. liquefied natural gas terminal, was preparing to resume processing by Thursday, two sources close to the matter said, as power was being restored. But LNG exports from the terminal are not expected to restart until the port, which is operating under restrictions, fully reopens for vessel traffic.

A spokesperson for Freeport LNG told Reuters the company “intends to resume liquefaction when post-storm assessments are complete and it is safe to do so.”

Ports along the Texas Gulf Coast, which had shut ahead of the hurricane, continued reopening on Wednesday, some with restrictions.

The Port of Freeport said on Wednesday the navigation channel had reopened to vessels with drafts up to 36 feet (10 meters). The port, which moved its first ship, added that survey would determine when the channel would be cleared for operations without restrictions.

“All Port Freeport entrance gates have resumed normal operating hours. Utility crews are on-site making repairs to downed power lines,” it said.

The Port of Houston said its eight public terminals had resumed operations on Tuesday for vessel operations, and on Wednesday morning returned to normal start times for gate operations.

Houston Pilots, which provides services to ships entering or departing the port, moved 14 ships inbound on Tuesday and was expecting 25 inbound and five outbound vessels on Wednesday.

At the Port of Galveston, cruise ships began to sail while cargo operations were expected to resume on Wednesday. The port, which maintains draft restrictions for vessels, experienced relatively minor damage and some power outages, said Rodger Rees, Galveston Wharves port director.

“Power remains out for areas of the port and the city. Port staff is working closely with the city to get power fully restored,” the ports said on a social media update.

Refineries and offshore production sites saw limited damage and largely returned to normal operations.

Some customers have questioned whether CenterPoint had enough crews in place ahead of the storm. Patrick said on Tuesday that an analysis would be conducted after power is restored.

CenterPoint said its crews were positioned where they would be safe when the storm hit and were deployed on Monday, when the landfall site was known, as soon as it was safe to do so.

With local stores running out of power generators for sale, many Texans resorted to their trucks to power appliances and small equipment at home.

Following power outages from Beryl, a Ford Motor (NYSE:F) spokesman said the automaker saw a 1300% increase from customers in the Houston region generating at least 1 kilowatt of power with their built-in F-150 pickup truck mobile generators, with people doing so numbering in the hundreds on July 8.

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