Low fuel stocks are a particular concern in the northeastern United States

PORTLAND, Maine — Diesel and fuel oil supplies in the Northeast are more than 50% below recent average, raising concerns that an extreme weather event could cause supply disruptions, federal officials said.

Fuel supplies are below normal throughout the country for various reasons, including the war in Ukraine. But it’s the worst in the Northeast.

Diesel fuel and heating oil, which make up the distillates category, are 63% below the five-year average in New England and 58% below the same average from Maryland to New York, according to a Department of Energy survey. Gasoline inventories aren’t as bad, but are still at their lowest level in nearly a decade across the East Coast, the agency said.

The Northeast relies heavily on fuel oil to keep homes warm in the winter, while other regions rely more on natural gas and electricity. In addition, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has planned an activity hurricane season, and a powerful weather event could cause disruption, as most of the fuel consumed from the Mid-Atlantic states to Maine comes from Gulf Coast refineries, energy officials say.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm calls a meeting of New England governors and their energy directors after Labor Day to discuss the situation. In the meantime, she urged governors in a letter to take all possible steps to bolster fuel supplies in the coming weeks to avoid any problems.

The Department of Energy also sent letters to seven major oil companies, asking them to hold onto their stock to help offset low inventories.

The federal agency is monitoring the issue and trying to be proactive with raising awareness. But buyers have little incentive to stock up on high-priced fuel for storage because prices are expected to fall, said Michael Ferrante of the Massachusetts Energy Marketers Association.

Concerns over fuel stocks come amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine further rattling an energy supply chain that has been seeking to catch up with growing demand. The war raises concerns about the adequacy of energy supplies around the world.

In New England, the immediate concern at the end of summer is diesel fuel, but the winter heating season is not far behind.

Fuel oil disruptions would hit the region hard as the percentage of homes that depend on it ranges from 24% in Massachusetts to more than 60% in Maine, the most dependent states.

Maine Governor Janet Mills, a Democrat, urged the Department of Energy to expedite its meeting with governors to discuss maintaining a stable fuel oil supply.

Maine is “significantly vulnerable to the rising prices and volatility that the global fossil fuel market is currently experiencing due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” said Mills administration spokesman Anthony Ronzio. .

Despite the concern, wholesalers and retailers are working well together, and Ferrante said he expects stocks to rise in September and October, alleviating immediate concerns.

He said he is optimistic that there will be an adequate supply of heating oil.

“Suppliers and retail delivery companies are concerned about prices and inventory, but there are no alarm bells ringing at the moment,” he said. “I don’t see a crisis at this point.”

The Department of Energy has created a fuel oil reserve that contains 1 million barrels in the Northeast terminals. These could be operated in an emergency.


Follow David Sharp on Twitter @David—Sharp—AP

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