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Some 664,000 still lack electricity after Katrina

Some 664,000 electricity customers still lacked power 11 days after Hurricane Katrina pummeled the U.S. Gulf Coast in Louisiana and Mississippi, according to area utilities and the U.S. Department of Energy.
/ Source: Reuters

Some 664,000 electricity customers still lacked power 11 days after Hurricane Katrina pummeled the U.S. Gulf Coast in Louisiana and Mississippi, according to area utilities and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Less than half the customers in Louisiana, or 445,000 homes and businesses, remained without power, while Mississippi had about 218,000 customers with no service.

Katrina initially left more than 4.5 million homes and businesses without power when it struck early last week.

Entergy Corp., which had about 352,000 customers out in Louisiana and 6,000 out in Mississippi, said it expected to restore service to parts of New Orleans, including the French Quarter, over the next several days.

While restoring power to the hardest hit and most severely flooded parts of Louisiana could take months, Entergy said it expects to restore service to most customers in Mississippi by Sunday.

Southern Co.'s Mississippi Power subsidiary had about 52,000 customers still without service. Southern expects to restore service to all customers who can receive power by Sunday. About 27,000 customers are currently unable to receive power.

Entergy's subsidiaries own and operate about 30,000 MW of generating capacity, market energy commodities and transmit and distribute power to 2.6 million customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

Southern's subsidiaries own and operate more than 39,000 MW of generating capacity and provide power to more than 4 million customers in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.

Power plants
Entergy said it has 17 generating units in the New Orleans area fueled by natural gas and/or oil. The company has returned nine of those units to service, with another expected to return later this week. Despite the outages, the utility said generation capacity is sufficient to meet load and their fuel supplies are adequate.

Some of the bigger outages in the area include Entergy's 1,089-megawatt Waterford nuclear power station in Louisiana, which is moving toward restart, and Southern's 1,047 MW Jack Watson coal-, natural gas- and oil-fired power plant in Mississippi, expected to remain shut for another six weeks to three months.

One MW can power 800 homes, according to North American averages.

The DOE said in a report citing coal analysts, the hurricane may affect coal consumption this fall because coal-fired plants that typically ramp down following the peak summer months may be required to continue generating at high levels to make up for the gap caused by damage to gas production.

Oil restoration efforts
The Dixie Propane Pipeline is running at full capacity but the Hattiesburg, Mississippi, terminal remains without power.

The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP), which is currently operating at 75 percent, expects to be operating at 100 percent within the next week after Port Fourchon becomes operational. Fourchon handles a large share of U.S. oil and natural gas imports.

Entergy said it is assessing the substations that connect the power grid to the three refineries with major damage in Louisiana that remain without electric service. The facilities include ConocoPhillips in Belle Chasse, Exxon Mobil Corp. in Chalmette and Murphy Oil Corp. in Meraux.

All of the other refineries in Louisiana and Mississippi still shut due to the hurricane have access to power. Even with access to electricity, however, it will still take some refineries weeks to resume operations.

The natural gas transmission pipelines in the path of Katrina survived with minimal damage, the DOE said, but the storm damaged four natural gas processing plants accounting for roughly 5.5 billion cubic feet per day. They are still not operating.

The DOE noted, however, the pipelines could possibly bypass the processing plants for a period.

The DOE estimated the nation's oil and natural gas production and distribution operations would return to near normal by December, the Energy Information Administration said in a short-term energy outlook.