New York — Downgraded and still moving at a crawl, Hurricane Dorian was set to head up the coast of Florida late Tuesday, threatening power outages and port closures on its way toward Georgia and the Carolinas. On its slow march north, the storm is expected to dampen natural gas and gasoline demand as damaging winds and rain reach inland.
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The hurricane is forecast to "move dangerously close to the Florida east coast late today through Wednesday evening, very near the Georgia and South Carolina coasts Wednesday night and Thursday, and near or over the North Carolina coast late Thursday and Thursday night," the National Hurricane Center said in a 2:00 pm EDT advisory. The storm sat over the northern Bahaman islands with Category 5 winds for almost two days, wreaking unprecedented havoc.
By Tuesday morning, Dorian had taken an offshore turn northward, with winds down to 110 MPH, dropping the hurricane to a Category 2.
A utility spokesman called Dorian "a very frustrating storm." A new concern was that Dorian could become another Hurricane Florence, which set records for flooding in the Carolinas in mid- to late-September 2018.
For natural gas, cooler weather, heavy rainfall and potential flooding could add downside risk to power burn estimates, especially if severe weather damages power lines and related electricity infrastructure that could reduce loads.
With Dorian now steering clear of Gulf of Mexico oil and gas offshore production facilities, oil markets were focused on impacts to consumption. ICE RBOB gasoline crack spreads weakened in recent days at least in part on expectations of lower driving demand along portions of the US Southeast.
**Duke Energy Florida said on Monday it had nearly 6,5000 workers ready to respond to Hurricane Dorian in Florida. On Tuesday, Duke said it was moving "an extra 4,000 field personnel from 23 states and Canada" to the Carolinas in anticipation of Dorian making its way up the Atlantic coast.
**Duke said the those crews will complement the 5,000 Duke Energy line workers and tree personnel who already work in the Carolinas - creating a workforce of almost 9,000 personnel.
**Duke Energy Florida has a customer base in Florida that comes to around 1.8 million spread out over 35 counties.
**The company owns and operates 19 natural gas, solar and coal plants, generating more than 10,000 MW. Three of Duke's largest facilities in Florida are the 1,632-MW, gas-fired Citrus County plant, the 1,422-MW Crystal River coal-fired plant and the 2,045-MW Hines gas-fired plant.
**Florida Power & Light said on Monday it had assembled what it called the largest pre-storm restoration workforce in its history, with approximately 17,000 people, including FP&L employees and workers from other utilities and electrical contracting companies.
**FP&L has two nuclear plants, each with two units, on south Florida's Atlantic Coast: the 1,770 MW Turkey Point plant in Homestead; and the 2,213 MW St. Lucie plant in Jensen Beach. Both plants remained full operational on Tuesday.
**FP&L designated on Friday its "storm riders" who will man its St. Lucie plant prior to the arrival of hurricane winds and remain at the facility during the entirety of the storm. The two-reactor facility has weathered three severe hurricanes, including Matthew in September 2016, Jeanne in September 2004 and Frances in August 2004.
**It is a regulatory requirement that US nuclear units must shut at least two hours before the projected arrival of hurricane-force winds, those over 74 mph. Nuclear reactors are protected against extreme winds, including tornado-strength gusts, but shut as a protective measure in case off-site power is lost.
**Southern Company's utility subsidiary Georgia Power is that state's largest utility, providing coverage to 2.6 million customers in all but four of Georgia's 159 counties. On Tuesday the company said it serves "more than 250,000 customers" in the current hurricane and tropical storm watch areas along the Georgia coast.
**A spokesman said that Georgia Power has "staffed-up," and restoration crews were being "held back." When needed, Georgia Power is able to rely on help from fellow Southern Company utility subsidiaries Alabama Power and Mississippi Power. Georgia Power had experience staging roughly 5,000 people near the coast for Hurricane Matthew that hit the Savannah, Georgia area in October 2016.
**More recently, Hurricane Michael crashed ashore on the Florida Panhandle and pushed inland and did significant damage to the Albany, Georgia, area in southwest section of the state. Michael, which left extensive damage in its wake, caused over a million power outages that the utility says were restored within roughly 5 days.
**Asked if there is any concern with Dorian traveling inland and impacting the Vogtle Nuclear facility, located roughly 100 miles northwest of Savannah, the Georgia Power spokesman Tuesday said that a plan is in place for getting Bechtel construction workers on Vogtle reactors 3 and 4 out of the area if Dorian becomes a factor.
**In a late Tuesday statement, South Carolina's Santee Cooper said it moved to a "OpCon 2 alert status," and has 800 people available to repair damage to its transmission and distribution systems, and another 500 "will make sure our generating stations are ready."
**Dorian's biggest impact to natural gas markets is expected to be a destruction of demand, as strong winds, battering waves and potential coastal flooding will likely continue to suppress power burn demand along the affected areas through Thursday, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics.
**Southeast power burn has fallen off as the storm threatens the Southeastern Atlantic coast, lowering demand from 11.6 Bcf/d on Monday, down to 10.9 Bcf/d for Tuesday's preliminary estimates.
**Since Sunday, Platts' interstate nominations to power plants in Florida have fallen about 500 MMcf/d down to 3.7 Bcf/d for Tuesday's estimates. Further downside risk to burn levels along the Southeast US persist depending on how close the storm gets to the coast.
**Florida Gas Zone 3, the primary pricing location for gas flowing into the Florida market, was trading up 14.60 cents at $2.416/MMBtu on Tuesday morning. The location's basis to Henry Hub flipped back to a premium after trading at a discount on Friday when the level of near-term gas-fired power demand seemed more uncertain.
**Platts Analytics forecasts total Southeast power burn to average 11.4 Bcf/d over the next week, approximately 0.1 Bcf/d lower week-on-week.
**Industrial demand in Florida and Georgia could potentially face downside risks that may arise from severe weather, according to Platts Analytics. Florida's industrial demand averaged 298 MMcf/d in 2018, while Georgia's averaged 434 MMcf/d, EIA data shows.
NATURAL GAS UTILITIES
**Natural gas utility companies expect that flooding of customers' equipment will pose the biggest threat from the storm.
**Piedmont Natural Gas, a subsidiary of Duke Energy, which delivers natural gas to more than 1 million residential, commercial and industrial customers in North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, issued a warning to customers concerning dangers of flooded equipment.
**"In flooded areas, Piedmont crews will respond to affected neighborhoods to inspect natural gas meters for signs of submersion," the company said. Any meter believed to have been submerged will be removed and natural gas service will be turned off.
**Dominion Energy, which supplies gas to parts of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, said it is "looking at storm surge projection maps in preparation to survey customers' homes in flood-prone areas post-storm to be sure customer natural gas facilities have not been submerged."
**Kinder Morgan's Elba Island Liquefaction in southeastern facility Georgia has been shut down due to state evacuation orders, a company spokeswoman said Tuesday.
**The shutdown is not expected to impact LNG markets, as the facility is still awaiting the export of its first LNG cargo.
**Concerns that Dorian would cause a drop in gasoline consumption helped push RBOB crack spreads lower. The ICE November RBOB crack vs Brent was trading around $2.77/b Tuesday afternoon, down from $4.21/b August 28.
**Dorian Monday passed over the Bahamas, home to Buckeye Partners' 26 million barrel petroleum storage, transshipment and blending facility at Freeport. Buckeye could not be reached for comment.
**Equinor's Grand Bahama Island facility in South Riding Point has 6.75 million barrels of crude and condensate storage capacity as well as blending and transhipment capabilities. According to a Bloomberg report, Equinor was shutting its facility ahead of Dorian. Equinor could not be reached for comment.
**While gasoline stocks throughout the region are "robust", the US Department of Energy noted there had been reports of rolling retail fuel station outages from increased demand.
**However, the DOE said Tuesday that retail fuel availability across Florida is stabilizing as most residents have completed pre-storm refueling and trucks are able to resupply stations.
**According to the DOE, Lower Atlantic refined products inventories are within the five-year range, with gasoline 2% above the five-year average and distillate 1% above the five-year average. Jet fuel stocks were 11% above the five-year average across the East Coast.
**Florida relies primarily on waterborne refined products supplies, as it has no refineries and is not served by major pipelines. Parts of Northern Florida also receive fuel via truck deliveries from Georgia and Alabama. Refined products are delivered primarily to marine terminals at Jacksonville and Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades) on the East Coast and Tampa on the West Coast.
**Kinder Morgan's Central Florida Pipeline delivers refined products from the Tampa terminal to Orlando.
**An average of 298,000 b/d of total refined products entered Florida via Port Everglades in 2017, while Tampa brought in 298,000 b/d, according to the DOE.
**According to S&P Global Platts Analytics, Florida's gasoline demand is 594,000 b/d, around 6.4% of the US total.
**Georgia's gasoline demand is roughly 328,000 b/d, with South Carolina's gasoline demand at roughly 187,000 b/d, and North Carolina's at 307,000 b/d, according to Platts Analytics.
**Looking at the last eight major hurricanes dating back to 2005, Platts Analytics has calculated that on average hurricanes have caused gasoline demand in the affected states to fall 22.4%.
**Florida's main East Coast ports were closed Tuesday, according to the US Coast Guard, with the exception of Jacksonville, which was open with restrictions. The port of Tampa was open.
**The South Carolina Ports authority said that all terminals will be operating normally on Tuesday, but terminals in Charleston and Georgetown will be closed on Wednesday and Thursday and reopen on Friday.
**In North Carolina, the Port of Wilmington and the Port of Morehead City are open with restrictions.
**The Georgia Ports Authority said Tuesday it was monitoring the hurricane and was set to shut down operations in both the Brunswick and Savannah locations on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.
**At Hampton Roads, Virginia, the USCG on Tuesday declared port condition X-RAY, expecting sustained gale force winds at the Virginia Capes within 48 hours.
**Farther north, the port of Baltimore was open with no readiness conditions set by Tuesday early afternoon.
**But the USCG had set "modified port condition Whiskey" for the port of Philadelphia, southern New Jersey and Delaware, in anticipation of gale force winds within 72 hours.
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