Hurricane Florence Temporarily Idles Coal Export Terminals on U.S. Eastern Coast
The U.S. Mid-Atlantic region already has endured more weather-related devastation than it has seen in years after Hurricane Florence made landfall on the Carolina coast early Friday, and comparisons with Hurricane Harvey's effect on the Texas Gulf Coast last year are multiplying. But there's at least one major difference: The effect on gas supplies and prices have been minimal, as no refineries have been shuttered due to Florence. But coal terminals, which are more plentiful (and influential) in the area, are another story.
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Predictably, gas stations in the areas affected by Florence saw a sharp spike in demand late last week as residents fled the massive storm. But any gasoline shortages have been geographically confined, with no major ripple effects in the rest of the nation. Harvey, by contrast, slammed the U.S. refining capitol, causing gasoline prices to spike across the nation until the facilities gradually reopened.
Coal exports, however, are a big business in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic region, and Florence could result in a temporary jump in coal prices as facilities that handle the majority of U.S. coal exports remain closed. Industrial Info is tracking operations at bulk metals and minerals terminals in North and South Carolina, including Dominion Terminal Associates LLP's 22 million-ton-per-year coal terminal in Newport News, Virginia, which halted operations Thursday; for details on the facility, see Industrial Info's plant profile.
Along with Dominion's terminal, two nearby coal-export facilities closed last week: Norfolk Southern Corporation's (NYSE:NSC) (Norfolk, Virginia) Lambert's Point Coal Terminal in Norfolk, Virginia, and Kinder Morgan Incorporated's (NYSE:KMI) (Houston, Texas) Pier IX Bulk Coal Terminal in Newport News, Virginia. These three facilities handle more than half of all U.S. coal exports, which have jumped 33% in the past 12 months to 30 million tons so far this year from the same period in 2017. The increase is attributed to growing demand for coking coal, which is used in steel production, according to analysts from Seaport Global Securities LLC (New York City, New York) quoted in The Wall Street Journal. For more information, see Industrial Info's profiles of the Lambert's Point and Pier IX terminals.
Norfolk confirmed that Lambert's Point would remain closed at least through the weekend; other owners have made no statements regarding the reopening of their terminals. Industrial Info's researchers are tracking more than 500 Metals & Minerals mines and plants in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia, many of which have been idled in the past few days. For more information, see September 12, 2018, article - Metals & Minerals Plants Along the Eastern Seaboard Brace for Florence.
Power, Pharmaceutical Plants Also Affected
North Carolina Electric Membership Corporation's (Raleigh, North Carolina) Buxton Peaking Plant on the Outer Banks is damaged to an unknown extent, while Duke Energy Corporation (NYSE:DUK) (Charlotte, North Carolina) has indicated damage to at least five solar plants. For more information, see Industrial Info's profile for the Buxton plant.
More than 40 Pharmaceutical & Biotech plants were in the immediate area of the storm, and major drug companies have shifted production of critical drugs to non-impacted plants to ensure no shortage of critical products.