American energy companies brace for tsunami

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 22, 2011 11:25 AM
American energy companies brace for tsunami

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Energy companies with operations along the Pacific coast of North and South America were on alert on Friday for the possibility of a tsunami set off by a massive earthquake off Japan.

Chile, hit by an 8.8 magnitude quake last year, upgraded a tsunami alert for its coastline and the remote Easter Island and said it would evacuate flood-prone areas along the mainland coast.

By midday, the tsunami passed Hawaii by and Chevron Corp said there was no impact to operations at its 54,000 barrel per day refinery in Honolulu, Hawaii which contained to make products.

Tesoro Corp which owns Hawaii's other refinery - a 93,500 bpd refinery in Kapolei, said earlier it closed a few retail stations in some low lying areas of Hawaii as a precaution and was monitoring operations at its refineries in Hawaii, Alaska, California and Washington.

Tidal surges in the Hawaiian island chain were generally little higher than normal, officials said, and there were no reports of injuries or severe inland property damage.

The island state of Hawaii had ordered evacuations of its coastal areas and braced for a tidal wave hours after the massive 8.9 earthquake in Japan, 3,800 miles away, triggered the tsunami warning across most of the Pacific basin, including northern California and Oregon.

An Obama administration official said Hawaii appeared to be out of danger, but some risk remained for the U.S. West Coast.

The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) said it was coordinating with local officials on the U.S. West Coast and in Hawaii on a response if needed.

Shipping operations at California ports were restricted.

The Port of Los Angeles suspended transfer of hazardous material ahead of a suspected 12 to 18-inch (30-46-cm) surge.

Beaches near the port have been closed off.

The port of San Francisco suspended oil and hazardous materials transfer as it expected a 3-foot surge.

The port of San Diego, located in the southern part of California, said it expects no impact from the tsunami.

In Mexico, state-run oil company Pemex evacuated 300 workers from its only oil port on the Pacific coast after a tsunami warning rippled down Latin America.

Further south in Ecuador, state oil company Petroecuador declared a precautionary force majeure on its oil exports but expected exports to return to normal by Saturday. Petroecuador produces about 145,000 bpd.

OPS NORMAL, TSUNAMI MONITORED

Valero Energy Corp, which operates a two refineries in California, said it was monitoring reports regarding the tsunami alert but had not altered production at its refineries.

BP Plc said it was monitoring the situation at its West Coast refineries while Shell said operations were normal at their plants.

Nuclear power plant operator PG&E Corp said it declared an unusual event at its Diablo Canyon power plant in California due to the tsunami warning, which is normal operating procedure at the California but both reactors there were operating normally.

Southern California Edison, a unit of Edison International, said workers would be monitoring "unusual small waves" that were likely to hit the coast.

"The San Onofre plant was designed with a 30-foot (9-meter) tsunami protective wall," company spokesman Gil Alexander said in response to a question on what safety measures the plant would be undertaking.

Both reactors at San Onofre plant were operating normally, he added.

(Reporting by Reuters America Energy Reporters and Bangalore Energy Desk, writing by Janet McGurty; Editing by Marguerita Choy)