Hurricane Matthew threatens petroleum terminals in Bahamas

The GOES East satellite image provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and taken Monday, Oct. 3, 2016, at 9:15 a.m. EDT, shows Hurricane Matthew about 220 miles southeast of Kingston, Jamaica. Hurricane Matthew roared across the southwestern tip of Haiti with 145 mph winds Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016, uprooting trees and tearing roofs from homes in a largely rural corner of the impoverished country as the storm headed north toward Cuba and the east coast of Florida. (NOAA via AP)
Hurricane Matthew spins in the Caribbean on Monday in this image provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (NOAA via AP)

Hurricane Matthew is threatening to shut in about 33 million barrels of oil storage in the Bahamas and disrupt Caribbean shipping this week before heading northwest toward the East Coast.

Statoil said it would evacuate all nonessential personnel by noon Tuesday from its 6.7 million-barrel South Riding Point terminal in Freeport, Peter Symons, a Houston-based spokesman, said in an email. The facility is on Grand Bahama Island, which is under a hurricane warning. Buckeye Partners LP also operates a 26.2 million-barrel terminal on the island. Officials with the Houston company didn’t respond to emails and calls for comment yesterday and today.

The two terminals “are significant for storage and are used for blending and transshipment of crude and petroleum products,” Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates, a Houston-based consulting company, said in a telephone interview.

Matthew, a major hurricane with 145 mile (230 kilometer) per hour winds, is a Category 4 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami. The center of the storm was moving over the Gulf of Gonave along the western coast of Haiti and heading for eastern Cuba, the center said in an advisory at 11 a.m. New York time Tuesday. As much as 40 inches (1 meter) of rain could fall in parts of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, while Cuba and Jamaica could get up to 20 inches and the Bahamas up to 12 inches.

Hurricane warnings are in place for Haiti, the Bahamas, Haiti and parts of Cuba. A portion of Florida, from Deerfield Beach to the Volusia/Brevard county line, was under a hurricane watch.

Statoil plans to have the South Riding Point terminal “fully secured” by Wednesday morning, Symons said. He didn’t comment on how operations may or may not be affected.

There are two petroleum terminals in Jamaica, one operated by Aegean Marine Petroleum Network Inc. and Petroleum Corp. of Jamaica, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Neither company responded to e-mails or calls seeking comment. Storm warnings for Jamaica have been lifted.

As the storm heads north, it may also affect ship traffic, delaying the delivery of gasoline into New York Harbor and southeastern U.S. markets including Florida, Lipow said.