As Hurricane Irma heads toward the U.S. mainland, the Department of Energy (DOE) is closely monitoring energy infrastructure impacts and coordinating across the federal community, state and local governments, and with industry partners in order to facilitate communication and situational awareness of energy sector requirement and impacts, and provide subject matter expertise to expedite restoration.

The impact of Irma on Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands indicates clearly that this is a powerful and dangerous storm, so preparedness is essential. Those in its potential path are urged to follow the instructions of state and local authorities. The DOE Emergency Response Organization at DOE HQ are working around the clock, and DOE emergency responders have been positioned with FEMA Incident Management Assistance Team in Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, and St. Croix, as well as to both the FEMA Region II and IV Coordination Centers. Together, they’ll help with the coordinated federal response to Irma.

The storm’s strong winds are likely to cause power outages, and could further impact other energy infrastructure. The energy sector is preparing for Irma by pre-positioning additional crews, supplies, and equipment to support emergency restoration work. Electricity, oil, and natural gas industry partners are also conducting daily coordination calls with DOE to identify gaps in resources and coordinate messaging and response efforts.

DOE is also working with the Energy Information Administration to assess potential impacts to the oil and gas sector from Hurricane Irma. DOE continues to work with the Energy Information Administration to assess potential impacts to the oil and gas sector, and it is also working with its interagency and private sector partners to ensure that fuel continues to remain available throughout the state of Florida. DOE took several steps in response to the shortages from Hurricane Harvey, and is prepared to take additional ones to ameliorate potential disruptions from the impact of Hurricane Irma. 

In response to the fuel shortages from Hurricane Harvey, DOE authorized emergency exchange agreements with refiners for the release of up to 5 million barrels of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The Department also worked with the EPA to issue waivers that allowed more fuel to go into the supply pipeline, and is examining other potential actions to mitigate fuel shortages. Similar steps could be taken in response to the impact of Irma.

As with Hurricane Harvey, DOE will continue to issue situation reports based on the storm’s impact, and on restoration activities being undertaken. Those will be available at the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability’s website.

Even as DOE and its partners continue preparations for Hurricane Irma’s US landfall, they have not taken their eye off the restoration efforts from Hurricane Harvey.  During the storm, more than 300,000 power outages were reported across Texas and Louisiana. Power has been restored to most of those affected, thanks to the united efforts of the electric industry. Mutual support networks were activated and the industry dedicated more than 10,000 workers from at least 21 states to the response and recovery effort, including crews, lineworkers and support personnel.

DOE is committed to working with its partners to prepare for Irma and its impact, to continue the restoration from Hurricane Harvey, and to build an even more resilient, reliable and secure grid against the storms of tomorrow.

photo of hurricane irma
Hurricane Irma | Image Courtesy of NASA