| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Nov 3 U.S. Northeast residents lucky
enough to have a roof after Hurricane Sandy struck now face a
new problem: a heating oil shortage and widespread power outages
mean some homes may go cold as the weather turns wintry.
A cold snap in the New York City area - with daily low
temperatures set to drop into the upper 30s Fahrenheit (2-4
degrees Celsius) early next week - is raising concerns that
residents of the storm-stricken areas of New York, New Jersey or
Connecticut could be left without heat as they recover from one
of the worst storms in U.S. history.
Some New York area heating oil distributors have already
been forced to ration supplies. The fuel is used in nearly 5.8
million homes in the Northeast, the world's largest heating oil
market. In some storm hit areas, distribution has nearly
Heating oil is usually dispatched in fleets of tanker trucks
to boiler rooms in thousands of residential buildings and
businesses. But on Friday, supplies were dwindling at many
distribution centers in New York City and parts of New Jersey.
In addition, nearly 3.5 million homes and business were
without power on Friday along the East Coast. While that number
will likely diminish by next week, those without power that use
heating oil will have limited options to stave off the cold.
Government attempts to alleviate the shortage by releasing
strategic reserves of heating oil are unlikely to provide much
relief, given the scope of the problem facing distributors.
Concerns are compounded by forecasts for unseasonably cold
weather. In New York City, temperatures are expected to dip to
between 3 and 10 degrees Fahrenheit below average for early
November, said Bradley Harvey, meteorologist at MDA Information
Systems in Maryland.
In the industrial Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn on
Friday, heating oil distributors who typically supply buildings
across the city said they were nearly out of fuel and had no
idea when new supplies would arrive.
Some of the region's fuel terminals which offload products
from tankers and barges have no power, and at least two
important oil refineries in New Jersey remain idled after the
storm flooded the plants this week.
"This is the last of it," said Nick DeMaria, a manager at
Bayside Fuel Oil Depot in Brooklyn, whose fuel supply was
dwindling. "I've got a line of trucks down the block and they're
not getting anything. When it gets cold, people are going to
need their heat."
News that the U.S. government will release about 48,000
barrels of ultra low sulfur diesel from its Northeast emergency
heating oil reserve in an effort will likely help compensate for
increased diesel demand due to emergency response efforts.
But it is only equivalent to 8 hours of New York State's
peak winter heating oil consumption, according to Reuters
To be sure, there were signs that a heating crunch could be
short-lived. New York Harbor, the region's fuel importing hub,
received its first gasoline barge on Friday morning, and the
federal government issued a temporary waiver of the shipping
Jones Act, to allow foreign-flagged tankers take fuel from the
U.S. Gulf Coast to the harbor.
Meanwhile, electric utilities made inroads to restore power
to residents in some areas, and a mild October has likely left
many buildings with stores of heating fuel as they wait for
normal distribution to resume.
But while activities have restarted in New York Harbor -
which has a tank capacity to store up to 75 million barrels of
oil products - logistical hurdles still plague the region.
In Brooklyn, Bayside has not been able to schedule new
deliveries of heating fuel to its depot, due to storm-related
damages to the bridges over small waterways that connect New
York Harbor to Brooklyn, DeMaria said.
A few blocks away, at the offices of fuel distributor
Statewide Oil and Heating, a small crew of workers were
attending to phones that were ringing off the hook. Statewide
was informing customers it would have to ration heating oil
deliveries to 100 gallons per building.
"There's no heating oil around," said Vincent Savino, the
president of Statewide, which usually supplies some 2,000
buildings across New York City.
"I don't know how much fuel we have left: maybe a day or
two," Savino said.
Even before Sandy, heating oil supplies in the East Coast
region were unseasonably low. Distillate stocks, which include
heating oil and diesel fuel, stood at 45 percent below their
5-year average along the East Coast in the week to October 12,
according to U.S. government figures. That was the lowest level
In addition, it was unclear when two New Jersey refineries
shuttered by Sandy, Phillips 66's 238,000 barrel per day
Bayway plant and Hess Corp's 70,000 barrel per day facility,
would resume operations. [ID: nL1E8M1LSC]
But in the more immediate term, the biggest problem could
finding fuel for delivery trucks, as many gasoline stations have
been left dry or without power.
Joan Clune, who helps to run the Sprague Oil Service
distribution center in Matawan, New Jersey, said it was already
running low on truck fuel and wasn't sure when new supplies
would become available. Sprague said she was still able to
deliver to customers, including supplying kerosene for lamps
portable stoves and some home heating devices, for now.
"We can't even get heating oil supplies right now beyond
what we still have in our trucks," Clune said.
(Reporting by Edward McAllister and Joshua Schneyer; Editing by