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Execs: Storm unlikely to hit LI gas supply

People line up for gas as the snow

People line up for gas as the snow begins to fall in Commack. (Feb. 8, 2013) Credit: Ed Betz

Petroleum industry experts said Friday they don't expect the current storm to disrupt the supply of gasoline to Long Island, as happened after superstorm Sandy.

The one caveat: If the blizzard causes widespread power outages in the region, including at gasoline stations and a gasoline pipeline from New Jersey to Long Island, the supply could get crimped.

Panic-buying by motorists preparing for the snowstorm caused some stations to run out of gas. But distribution terminals on the Island have adequate supplies, and more gasoline is available for shipment to them as soon as the storm passes, said an official at Northville Industries, whose Holtsville terminal is a major distribution point for gasoline.

Sandy flooded and knocked out power to refineries, many distribution terminals and gas stations in the metropolitan area on Oct. 29, resulting in long lines at stations still pumping, and panic-buying. The situation was alleviated as supplies improved and New York and New Jersey instituted a gasoline rationing system based on car license plate numbers.

"I think this will be completely unlike Sandy, and it will be fine," said the Northville official, who declined to be named.

It's all a matter of electricity, the official said: "Unless there is a loss of power in New Jersey, which would preclude us from loading barges, everything should be fine."

He said two barges, loaded with 80,000 barrels and 55,000 barrels, respectively, of gasoline, are ready to leave New Jersey terminals in New York Harbor for his dock in Port Jefferson once the storm passes. That gasoline represents a five- or six-day supply for his terminal, he said.

Industry executives say another major terminal, at Inwood, whose closure after Sandy worsened the Island's shortage, is fully operational.

And they note that January and February are periods of seasonally low demand for gasoline. Severe snowstorms tend to reduce demand further as drivers postpone unnecessary trips.

"There's nothing like 10 inches of snow to really crimp gasoline demand," said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service in Wall, N.J.National Grid's president for Long Island electric operations, John Bruckner, said at a briefing Friday the utility had taken "precautionary steps" in reaching out to major fuel terminals on Long Island in the event the storm affects power to them. Among those steps: making sure the terminals had back-up generators, and keeping lines of communication open in the event they need priority restoration, Bruckner said.

Kevin Beyer, president of the Long Island Gasoline Retailers Association, said many stations, especially in Nassau County, ran dry Friday, but he expects any supply shortfall to be temporary. "Because we're going into the storm on a weekend, we should be OK," he said. "They'll pull the [delivery] trucks off the roads for a few hours, but they'll be back starting Saturday night and we'll be getting resupplied."

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