NEW YORK (Reuters) - More fuel terminals came back online in the New York harbor network on Sunday as mainline power was restored nearly a week after super storm Sandy, but gasoline shortages persisted and some major facilities remained idle.
A looming concern was that heating oil supplies were dwindling with temperatures expected to dip to freezing in New York on Monday.
Commercial power was restored at Colonial Pipeline’s key terminal in Linden, New Jersey, a major supply hub for New York and northern New Jersey. Colonial said all delivery lines out of the Linden terminal were “operable”.
In the New York Harbor, some of the four tankers carrying refined fuels and anchored offshore were transferring shipments to smaller barges for delivery, despite some traffic restrictions, the U.S. Coast Guard said.
One of the tankers, Glory Express, became the first allowed into the Arthur Kill Waterway after Sandy struck. It was headed to Kinder Morgan’s Carteret terminal in New Jersey on Sunday afternoon, Reuters shipping data showed.
Late on Saturday, Hess Corp. said power was partly restored at its 70,000 barrel per day (bpd) Port Reading, New Jersey, refinery, but it needs full power to complete a damage assessment. Hess said it could take several days before it could bring back utility systems necessary to consider restarting.
The Phillips 66-owned Bayway refinery in Linden, New Jersey was idle over the weekend after the company was forced to shut 238,000 bpd plant when the storm hit. Phillips 66 said it does not expect updates on operations until Monday morning.
The outages hit the region when gasoline and diesel stocks were hovering near all-time lows. Total East Coast gasoline inventories hit a record low for October in the first week of the month and barely recovered in the weeks since, according to U.S. Energy Department data. Similarly, East Coast distillate stocks hit a seven-year low three weeks ago and were at their 12th lowest level right before Sandy devastated the Eastern Seaboard.
In a briefing on Sunday, New York governor Andrew Cuomo said the fuel shortage is lifting in New York but problems are likely to persist for “a number of days.”
In New York, 27 percent of gas stations surveyed by the Energy Department’s data arm were without gasoline on Sunday, down from 38 percent on Saturday.
For FACTBOX on refinery, terminal and pipeline operations:
By Sunday afternoon, 1.86 million homes and business were without power in states hit by the storm. Power was restored to nearly 78 percent of customers that were without electricity after Sandy.
New Jersey power provider PSE&G said it brought power back to 78 percent of gasoline stations in its service area,
“We have restored power to all of the refineries and pipeline suppliers that we are aware of,” PSE&G President Ralph LaRossa said on a conference call.
However, there were still signs of the shortages that have gripped the region, causing miles-long lines for gasoline.
Fuel rationing based on license plate numbers in New Jersey, which was enacted by Governor Chris Christie, entered its second day. Only cars with even numbers could buy gasoline in the state on Sunday.
In Montclair, New Jersey, some stations ran out of fuel after pumping gasoline on Saturday for cars with odd-numbered plates. This left few stations with gasoline to serve motorists with even-numbered plates , who waited for hours on Sunday.
On the heating oil front, suppliers were optimistic there would soon be enough supplies, barring any transportation issues in the next few days.
Two terminals with heating oil supplies - one in the Bronx and one in Brooklyn -- were open for business Sunday and some barges were expected to deliver heating oil to terminals operated by Bayside Fuel Oil Depot terminals in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
“If all goes smoothly … we’ll have enough for this week and into the next weekend,” said John Maniscalco, head of New York Oil Heating Association.
Additional reporting by Ed Tobin; Editing by David Gregorio