West Coast energy operations brace for tsunami
NEW YORK | Fri Mar 11, 2011 11:59am EST
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. energy companies with operations in Hawaii, Alaska and along the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington were on alert on Friday for the possibility of a tsunami set off by a massive earthquake off Japan reaching U.S. shores.
Tesoro Corp which has the largest concentration of refinery capacity in the region, said it had closed a few retail stations in some low lying areas of Hawaii as a precaution and was monitoring operations at its refineries in Hawaii, Alaska, California and Washington.
The first signs of the tsunami began to wash up on Hawaiian shores early Friday, as waves seen on local television footage rose steadily over the southern beaches on the island of Oahu.
The island state of Hawaii ordered evacuations of its coastal areas and braced for a tidal wave hours after the massive 8.9 earthquake in Japan, 3,800 miles away, triggered the tsunami warning across most of the Pacific basin, including northern California and Oregon.
The U.S. government said shorelines appear to be out of major danger from the tsunami, caused by the large quake which killed hundreds in Japan, but that there is still some risk to the U.S. West Coast.
The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) said it was coordinating with local officials on the U.S. West Coast and in Hawaii on a response if needed.
Shipping operations at the ports of Los Angeles and San Francisco were suspended as a precaution relating to the tsunami.
The Port of Los Angeles suspended cargo operations ahead of the suspected 12 to 18-inch (30-46-cm) surge in one to two hours. Beaches near the port have been closed off.
The port of San Francisco suspended oil and hazardous materials transfer as it expects a 3-foot surge at 8:08 a.m. local time.
The port of San Diego, located in the southern part of California, said it expects no impact from the tsunami.
Valero Energy Corp, which operates a two refineries in California, said it was monitoring reports regarding the tsunami alert but had not altered production at its refineries.
Chevron Corp said its refineries in Hawaii and California are preparing to respond ahead of the tsunami.
Nuclear power plant operator PG&E Corp said it declared an unusual event at its Diablo Canyon power plant in California due to the tsunami warning, which is normal operating procedure at the California but both reactors there were operating normally.
Southern California Edison, a unit of Edison International, said workers would be monitoring "unusual small waves" that were likely to hit the coast.
"The San Onofre plant was designed with a 30-foot (9-meter) tsunami protective wall," company spokesman Gil Alexander said in response to a question on what safety measures the plant would be undertaking.
Both reactors at San Onofre plant were operating normally, he added.
(Reporting by New York Energy Desk and Bangalore Energy Desk, writing by Janet McGurty; Editing by Marguerita Choy)