How the Energy Industry Can Prepare for Natural Disasters
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- Jun 20, 2019 7:19 pm GMT
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Natural disasters represent an ongoing risk to the nation's electrical grid. Hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes and similar events have the potential to cause billions of dollars in economic damages. More than that, they pose a danger to health and public safety, compromising the security of citizens across the country.
Unfortunately, no single entity is responsible for operating, planning or regulating the grid. Increasing its resilience would require the collective effort of state, federal, private and public groups. This incredible degree of coordination may present a challenge, but the energy industry could provide significant support.
More specifically, the energy industry can help prepare for natural disasters. It's possible to mitigate the impact of disruptive events by exercising certain precautions. We'll explore these measures in greater detail, looking at the subject of grid vulnerability and potential solutions for risk management.
Emergency Exercises and Grid Resilience
A report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine proposes an expansion of efforts to convene emergency preparedness exercises at a regional level. These exercises would include simulations of outages, specifically those that occurred as a result of natural disasters.
The electricity industry would assume an important role in the organization of these exercises, according to the National Academies' report. It would work alongside regional and state agencies, the North American Energy Reliability Corporation and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
These simulations would prove valuable in the event of a natural disaster, providing individuals with the resources they need to protect themselves and others. However, the suggested exercises are far from the only solution in the report. Experts also recommend greater investment in grid resilience.
The owners and operators of electrical infrastructure would cooperate with the Department of Energy to systematically review previous outages. Furthermore, they would demonstrate technologies and operational arrangements with the potential to reinforce the grid. This will aid in the integration of new solutions.
Disaster Response With Alternative Fuels
Given the short- and long-term effects of natural disasters, emergency preparedness is crucial. As context, hurricanes can have a massive environmental impact, as evidenced by Hurricane Harvey. Refineries and petrochemical plants in the affected area released 8.3 million pounds of pollution into the atmosphere.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, energy companies worked to maintain safety. Compressed natural gas stations in the region were able to remain active, supplying fuel to individuals and groups that required it. These stations continued to operate without complications due to the security of underground pipelines.
The energy industry has helped with disaster response in similar emergencies. In Atlantic City, New Jersey, a fleet of 190 CNG buses enabled safe transport during Hurricane Sandy. While other fleets had difficulties with fuel shortages, the 190 CNG buses had access to an uninterrupted supply of CNG.
That said, compressed natural gas is only one solution for emergency preparedness. A degree of flexibility is also vital for servicing critical infrastructure needs. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has trucks that can run on both gasoline and natural gas, allowing for more fueling options and extended range.
Looking Toward the Future
National disasters may represent an ongoing risk, but the associated dangers are possible to suppress. With support from the energy industry, the country can protect its citizens against the dangers of hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes and similar events. Preserving the electrical grid is one of the foremost priorities.
That said, it will require a substantial amount of resources and the continued commitment of various organizations. The solutions in the previous sections are promising, but they are only a partial view of a much larger picture. Even so, the country has made progress in addressing its vulnerabilities.
Looking toward the future, U.S. citizens can feel confident in their future safety.