By Xinhua Writers Li Ming, Gao Lu
HOUSTON, Sept. 3 (Xinhua) -- As Hurricane Harvey struck southeast Texas, the heart of U.S. oil and gas industry, and knocked out almost a quarter of the entire U.S. refining capacity, operations of Chinese oil companies in the area have barely been affected, senior executives of the companies have said.
Zhang Tao, vice president of PetroChina International America (PCIA), told xinhua in a recent interview that daily operations of the company have not stopped for a single moment during the hurricane, thanks to an early-prepared emergency response conducted by the company.
PICA was founded in 2003 in New Jersey and is part of PetroChina Co. Ltd., one of the world's largest crude oil producers and traders. With nearly 90 employees in the U.S., PCIA has become a full-spectrum energy commodity trading company in the area, focusing on midstream and downstream sectors involving refining, pipeline and storage tankers.
As soon as PICA moved its headquarters from New Jersey to Houston in 2013 to plant a firmer footing in the "Oil capital" in North America, the company established an emergency response plan to cope with extreme weathers in the great Houston area, according to Zhang.
After Hurricane Harvey made landfall along the Gulf coast of Texas on August 25, PICA quickly set up an emergency response team (ERT) that consisted of six executives and lawyers to monitor the situation, he said.
In the first two days when the hurricane was not too severe, employees were asked to work from home and communicate with each other by emails and phones.
However, when the hurricane brought heavy flooding in Houston in the following days and evacuations were mandatory in many areas, ERT required each operation team of the company set up a critical team to make sure one or two key members in the team could be reached 24 hours a day.
"The critical team played an important role in keeping the company working this time," Zhang said, adding that each team was asked by ERT to update its status every six hours and report how the key members doing at the moment.
In the worst case scenarios, for example, if telephone, electricity or internet in Houston were completely shut down, the company had a plan to move key members and their family to other cities to consume working immediately, said Zhang.
He further explained that several workers had already been sent to other cities as pioneer team to get everything ready for the critical team, including food, cars and hotels.
"The hurricane is a test for our emergency response plan and also a critical test for the teamwork of the whole company," the executive said.
"Operations of the crude team and shipping team were not at all affected by the hurricane, other supporting groups including accounting team and IT team were operated as usual too." He added.
Zhang also told Xinhua that as the flood waters closed several oil refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast, crude prices and shipping costs of the company need to be reassessed.
"That is not a problem for us, we are adjusting to the changes very quickly," he said.
Meanwhile, other Chinese oil companies in the Houston area were also running smoothly during the hurricane, among which was OOGC America LLC, a subsidiary of China National Offshore Oil Corp.
Jiang Qing, President of OOGC America LLC, told Xinhua in an interview that before Harvey came, the company moved some of its business to its regional headquarters in Calgary, Canada.
Jiang said that during Harvey, employees had been working at home, "an emergency alert system was established in the company, and every supervisor and team leader needed to update their location and if they can handle their job under current circumstances."
"During Harvey, our business never stops." He said.
Over 40 people died in flooding or circumstances connected to Tropical Storm Harvey in Texas, according to local officials.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has said Hurricane Harvey had caused up to 180 billion U.S. dollars damage.