Central natural gas clearinghouse could prepare refiners for future storms: exec

Texas should consider a central clearinghouse around natural gas and electricity availability in case of future cold weather events like the recent winter storm, according to a Phillips 66 refining executive speaking at an industry conference Monday.

The refining industry on the U.S. Gulf Coast took several weeks to recover from a deadly deep freeze that sent temperatures below freezing for several days in February.

Bob Herman, executive vice president of Phillips 66, noted that during previous hurricanes, such as Hurricane Harvey in 2017, the industry could better communicate supply outages through a clearinghouse.

“Those kinds of communications systems did not exist on a statewide basis,” Herman said of the February storm.

Herman said rolling blackouts and teams being out of the office during the event disrupted communications, particularly with suppliers.

The freeze knocked out power for millions of Texans and idled nearly a quarter of the United States’ refining capacity. The storm’s effect on refining rivaled that of Harvey, but also brought the added problems of freezing natural gas and water lines that made it harder for facilities to restart safely.

Herman said he believes physical plant infrastructure held up relatively well during the deep freeze.

“I think it’s important for us not to react to something that’s a 100-year event or 150-year event,” he said. (Reporting by Laura Sanicola; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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