Hurricane Harvey was an historic storm that hit my city of Houston and communities throughout this region especially hard. Family, friends and neighbors are struggling to recover from the record rains. Americans nationwide are also feeling the impact, including at the pump.
The U.S. refining industry, centered on the Gulf Coast, was hit hard, too. Flooding forced us to shut down our Baytown and Beaumont refineries that manufacture gasoline and other fuels. Other companies have had to shut down major refineries in the region. I’ve been in this business for more than 30 years, and I’ve never seen anything like it. The impact of this hurricane has been unprecedented.
But so has been the response. Americans are rising to the challenge, going above and beyond to help each other in a time of need. The images we’ve all seen of the destruction are heartbreaking, but images of fellow Americans helping one another are inspiring. It’s that collaborative spirit that will help the Gulf Coast rebuild even stronger than before.
Our nation’s oil and gas industry is hard at work as well. At ExxonMobil, we’ve had to temporarily shut down some operations, but we haven’t stopped working. Just the opposite. My team is working around the clock to bring everything back on line as quickly as we can and get fuel to drivers that need it.
Our refining company is headquartered in Houston, so many on my staff are under a lot of stress at home dealing with hurricane damage. Some have seen their homes flooded, their cars swept away, and their lives upended. It’s a real testament to their commitment and compassion that, despite the personal hardships, they’re showing up for work each day to get the job done. They’re also lending a hand to the clean-up and recovery effort in their communities, and donating to the Red Cross and other charities. I’m really proud of our entire team.
To help meet Americans’ fuel needs in the wake of the hurricane, the current challenge we face is mainly a logistical one. Worldwide, there’s still more than enough supply to meet demand. But the storm has temporarily disrupted local and national supply lines. Not all the fuel is where it needs to be. We have to quickly reroute trucks and tankers to get supplies from more distant locations to places that previously relied on the Gulf Coast refineries.
And that’s exactly what we’re doing. We’re going the extra mile to reconnect the dots and move fuel quickly and safely. For example, our Baton Rouge refinery, which was spared the full brunt of the storm, remains fully operational, and is beginning to supply new locations throughout Texas. We’re going overseas for help, loading up fuels made at our refineries in Europe and shipping them to the United States. At the same time, we’re restarting operations in the region as soon as we safely can. Earlier today, we were able to reopen our South Houston and North Houston fuel terminals, important hubs that should enable drivers in the area to fuel up again soon.
Going the extra mile takes a little extra time. Not all service stations will have all the fuel they need right away. But we’re making real progress, and expect the situation to improve soon. In the meantime, drivers can help by not “panic-buying.” Topping off your tank is one thing; stockpiling fuel is another, and puts unnecessary stress on the system. We can all help each other if we don’t go overboard.
I’m confident our region and country will bounce back. So will America’s refining industry. Working together, we can withstand one of the worst hurricanes in history, help families get back on their feet, and get our nation moving forward again. I know I speak for the entire ExxonMobil family when I say we won’t stop until we do.
Jerry Wascom is president of ExxonMobil Refining & Supply Company.