Power outages hamper recovery from Hurricane Beryl, delay restart of oil infrastructure

By Arathy Somasekhar, Marianna Parraga and Curtis Williams

HOUSTON (Reuters) – About 1.7 million customers were still without power in Texas on Wednesday morning, two days after Hurricane Beryl struck, with progress in restoring power slow overnight, hampering efforts to quickly restart critical oil infrastructure.

The storm made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane Monday near the coastal city of Matagorda, about 100 miles (160 km) from Houston, battering Texas with strong winds that toppled power lines and damaged property.

Reinsurance broker Gallagher Re has estimated that U.S. economic losses from Beryl will be at least $1 billion, as damage assessments continue, while weather forecasting firm AccuWeather has issued a preliminary estimate of $28 billion to $32 billion in U.S. damage and economic losses.

About 1.36 million of the 1.7 million people without power are customers of CenterPoint Energy, the state’s largest utility.

CenterPoint said Wednesday it had restored power to more than 615,000 customers in the previous 24 hours, adding that it remained confident of restoring power to 1 million affected customers by the end of the day.

Freeport LNG, the second-largest liquefied natural gas terminal in the United States, is preparing to resume operations as early as Thursday after power is restored, two people familiar with the matter said. But LNG exports from the terminal are not expected to resume until the port, which is operating under restrictions, fully reopens to shipping.

A Freeport LNG spokesperson told Reuters the company “intends to resume liquefaction when post-storm assessments are complete and it is safe to do so.”

Ports along the Texas Gulf Coast, which had closed before the hurricane, continued to reopen Wednesday, some with restrictions.

The Port of Freeport said it was open and operational, while shipping agents said some traffic restrictions remained in place. Port facilities were operating on backup power while utility crews worked to restore power, port officials said Tuesday.

The Port of Houston announced it would reopen on Wednesday, after allowing some ships to enter, also with restrictions.

At the Port of Galveston, cruise ships have begun sailing while cargo operations are expected to resume Wednesday. The port suffered relatively minor damage and some power outages, said Rodger Rees, director of the Port of Galveston Wharves.

Refineries and offshore production sites suffered limited damage and have largely resumed normal operations.

Some customers are wondering if CenterPoint had enough crews on site before the storm. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said an analysis would be done once power is restored.

CenterPoint said its crews were positioned where they would be safe when the storm hit and were deployed Monday when the landfall site was known as soon as it was safe to do so.

(Reporting by Arathy Somasekhar, Marianna Parraga and Curtis Williams in Houston; Editing by Ros Russell and Rod Nickel)

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