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Vulnerabilities: Tank Farm location, 1 coastal road

A two-year assessment of American Samoa’s energy supply disruption identified “pre-existing vulnerabilities” that will require the local and federal governments to review and address, as part of the territory’s Energy Assurance Plan (EAP).

The comprehensive assessment was conducted by the U.S. based Westmoreland Associates, to determine the threat of long-term energy supply disruption in American Samoa.

The assessment report, titled ‘Addressing the Threat of Long-Term Energy Supply Disruption: A Strategic Energy Assurance Plan (EAP) for American Samoa’ was prepared for the Territorial Energy Office. (See yesterday's edition for the first story).

The report states that vulnerabilities can be decreased in any one of three ways: decreasing exposure, decreasing sensitivity or increasing adaptive capacity. “Pre-existing vulnerabilities of the American Samoa infrastructure represents an additional dimension of systemic threat,” it says.

To begin with, the report says, there has not been any recent improvement in security at the ASG oil terminal despite the ease of accessibility to human interference and its prominent exposure to natural threats.

“This represents one of the most obvious pre-existing vulnerabilities in the territory,” according to the report, which identifies more than ten vulnerabilities, including the territory’s petroleum storage tanks — the Utulei Tank Farm — that sits in a single exposed location.

While convenient for bulk fuel off loading, the report says, the facility could result in severe energy supply disruption and socio/economic consequences if fuel stored there could not be delivered to one or more critical end users such as power plants, the airport, the hospital’s emergency generator and other facilities.

Another vulnerability, said the report is the lack of back-up, reserve storage of petroleum products outside of the small amounts at the two generating stations and the airport — which are constantly being drawn down — and represent a chosen risk that could be mitigated through the construction of additional strategic fuel storage reserves there and other locations.

The report went on to point out that at present, only a ten-day reserve of fuel is required by the Office of Petroleum Management at the tank farm and this limited amount of petroleum fuel reserves may only be adequate to sustain the delivery of emergency energy services for a brief period of days, thus representing a “serious vulnerability”.

“Increasing the strategic reserves of petroleum fuel in American Samoa will contribute significantly to the near-term resilience of the energy supply system while alternative energy options are developed,” the report suggests.

Another vulnerability, identified by the report, is that the “solitary coastal road” used to transport diesel to the power plants and all other end users “is a significant vulnerability” in that no alternative surface transportation route exists on which to deliver fuel from the tank farm.

“If diesel fuel cannot be moved by tanker truck... then the terminal becomes a stranded asset,” it says.

All fuel tanker trucks are stored overnight at one location — which is the tank farm — and the report says this “creates a significant vulnerability and risk of energy supply disruption should an event such as an accidental explosion or fire destroy these trucks” which are generally stored empty as the parking area cannot contain a spill should one or more trucks suffer a leak.

The report says that cyber threats, while not an immediate vulnerability due to the absence of computerized and automation in the electric grid or petroleum handling facilities, “will grow as a vulnerability as modernization of the energy infrastructure occurs.”

“The ASG must stay vigilant in the face of these potential future threats,” the report added.

Other pre-existing vulnerabilities of interest cited in the report:

•            ASPA’s overhead power lines continue to be vulnerable to high winds and blown debris even if there is not a natural disaster declared. ASPA reports difficulty in receiving permission from landowners to trim trees away from power lines

•            Despite the new Feeder 10 for ASPA being installed with stimulus funding, the configuration of existing feeder lines leaves the island vulnerable to more extended outage than need be. The installation of feeder switches could improve the integrity and efficiency of the grid and restrict outage to smaller service areas than is now the case when a feeder is tripped.

•            Operating budgets prevent ASPA from maintaining an exhaustive spare parts inventory for its power generation activities sufficient to withstand an interruption in supplies from abroad.

•            There are poor drainage systems near much of Tutuila’s energy infrastructure, making flooding a continuing possibility during heavy rain events.

•            Weakening of natural shoreline protection offered by beaches due to sand mining and vegetation removal add additional risk to the already near-sea level location of many important energy infrastructure facilities.