One person has died as Hurricane Harvey — now a tropical storm — brings rain and floods to Texas. BuzzFeed News reporters Talal Ansari and Jim Dalrymple II are reporting from the coastline.
Here’s What We Know:
- One person died in Rockport, Texas as a result of the hurricane, officials said, adding that up to 14 others have suffered minor injuries.Hurricane Harvey weakened to a tropical storm on Saturday afternoon as it hovered over the Texas coast — but officials and forecasters warned that the cyclone is extremely dangerous and potentially life-threatening.
- The storm is battering the Texas coast with surging water levels, rainfall, and winds.
- Storm surges of up to 13 feet were expected in areas near where the storm made landfall and the storm has the potential to dump as many as 40 inches of rain in parts of southeastern Texas.
- Harvey was a powerful Category 4 in the Gulf of Mexico on Friday. It was later downgraded to Category 2 and Category 1 as it slowed overland.
- Overnight, there were already reports of severe damage to buildings and reports of injuries trickling in.
- President Trump on Friday approved Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s request to declare a federal disaster as Harvey approached the state.
With tropical storm Harvey still wreaking havoc in Texas, the impacts on the state’s oil and gas industry are still largely unknown. But state regulators are anticipating some problems, such as leaks and spills.
“For this size of an event, we expect there is going to be something that we have to respond to,” Texas energy regulator Ryan Sitton told BuzzFeeds News. “I hope it’s not going to be anything major.”
Sitton said that as of Saturday afternoon companies had not reported any incidents, such as spills, associated with pipelines, midstream operations, oil and natural gas production, wells, and other related facilities in the storm’s path. “That is not surprising,” he said, because it is still raining and operators may not yet had a chance to inspect their facilities.
In preparation for the storm, many operators partially or fully shut down their facilities. “Somewhere around 1 million barrels a day of refining capacity was shut down,” explained Texas Railroad Commissioner Sitton. That’s more than 5% of the nations’ refining capacity offline, and it accounts for all shut down refineries in Corpus Christi, another closed refinery nearby, and a few at least partially closed facilities in Houston.
There are closures on the production side of the industry, too. For example, one of the state’s largest oil fields is the Eagle Ford. It produces 870,000 barrels of crude oil a day, or about 8 percent of the nation’s oil. Based on anecdotal reports and experience in the industry, Sitton said he’s expecting for the Eagle Ford “anywhere from a third to two-thirds of the production would be shut in.”
Sitton said he did not have a complete list of the shuttered Texas oil and gas facilities, however, because there’s no standard protocol in place for operators to inform officials. It will likely take 2 to 4 weeks for regulators to piece together the full magnitude of the energy-related shutdowns.
“It’s going to be a while that the state, and in particular the companies that operate these facilities, are dealing with the aftermath of this storm,” Sitton said.
Meanwhile, federal officials at the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement are tracking offshore energy facilities across the Gulf of Mexico. The BSSE reported that 112 oil and gas platforms, along with 5 rigs, had been evacuated as of Saturday. Moreover, nearly 25% and 26% of the region’s oil and gas production, respectively, had been shut in.