U.S. Markets closed

Hurricane Dorian Rips Roofs Off Bahamas Oil Storage

Aaron Clark and Sheela Tobben

(Bloomberg) -- Hurricane Dorian has left oil seeping into the ground on the island of Grand Bahama after the storm blew the tops off five crude-storage tanks on the island.

“According to the information we have right now, the roofs of five tanks are gone,” Norway’s Equinor ASA, which owns the storage facilities, said in a statement. “We do not know if they are been carried away by the winds or fallen into the tanks.”

Equinor said Thursday that a flyover it conducted showed oil had seeped into the ground but not the sea. The tanks can hold 6.75 million barrels -- almost 1 million tons. The terminal was shut on Saturday in preparation for the storm and will stay closed until further notice, the company said Friday.

During July and August, the terminal had a few ships come through, one of which delivered crude from West Africa. The rest loaded supplies from the facility to deliver to Jamaica, and the U.S. Gulf and East Coast, according to ship tracking compiled by Bloomberg.

A video tweeted by Coral Vita, which works to protect coral reefs on the island, appeared to show that crude reached a nearby road and was outside a perimeter fence.

Oil from the terminal had leaked onto nearby grass and trees, according to Sam Teicher, founder and chief reef officer for Coral Vita, who was in the area around the terminal doing relief work Thursday. “We could see as we were approaching that some of the big dome roofs were gone,” he said by phone. “When we got there, you could smell the oil.”

In addition to the tanks whose roofs were gone, some other roofs had been partly ripped off and were covered in oil, he said.

The environmental impact from the spill is one of many brutal blows for Grand Bahama after the storm put large tracts of the Bahamian island under water and left thousands homeless.

Here’s a satellite image of South Riding Point, the storage facility, provided by Maxar Technologies Inc. It was taken on Wednesday, after the worst of the storm:

And here’s how the same site looked back in April:

Equinor said Friday that it’s still to soon to estimate how long the response will take and that it doesn’t have information about oil reaching the sea.

“The situation in the Bahamas is still challenging and infrastructure has sustained severe damage,” Equinor said. “All required resources are being mustered and our primary concern is to ensure the safety of our employees and the environment. We are mobilizing people and equipment to respond to the spill as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile, a larger facility in the Bahamas operated by Buckeye Partners LP suffered “minor damage” from Dorian, according to the company. Buckeye continues to communicate with its customers regarding a timeline for a return of partial operations of the 26-million barrel capacity facility. Known as Borco, it also handles refined products such as gasoline, which is stored, blended to supply to the U.S. East Coast.

Restoring operations at affected areas in the Bahamas would depend on restoring power supply, unless backup generators are already in place. The storm, which reached Category 5 on Sunday, ravaged the power grid on Grand Bahama island where the two oil facilities are located.

--With assistance from Bill Lehane, Julian Lee and Stephen Cunningham.

To contact the reporters on this story: Aaron Clark in Tokyo at aclark27@bloomberg.net;Sheela Tobben in New York at vtobben@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Ramsey Al-Rikabi at ralrikabi@bloomberg.net, David Marino, Catherine Traywick

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.