Oil shortages: Improving emergency response rates

Filed in: General News

February 21, 2012

The last newsletter from  EnergyMarketPrice  is consistent with the warnings from economist Jeff Rubin [i] in telling us world oil demand will increase despite the weak economic environment [ii].

Today’s headline Iran ‘halts oil sales to France and Britain’ is just one of a series of stories reminding us of other threats to the supply and price of oil. Shortages of available processing capacity, [iii] terrorist threats [iv] from the air or even just men in a van attacks on refining capacity [v] further compound the bleak picture.

Of course, we hope none of these things happen, especially to that large hypothetical, clandestine health and security facility, hidden under York Minster. Our sources tell us that this institution employs just over a thousand people.

A rapid response:

Because of the important nature of this organisation it needs to know how quickly staff can respond in an emergency.  In planning for such emergencies, the first step might be to look at places where employees live in order to assess how long it takes them to be at their posts.

I have used the Beacon Dodsworth GIS, Prospex, to find the drive times of postal sectors in which they might live:

Next I used Prospex to find those postcodes in the furthest postal sectors:

With access to a database containing the home postcodes of the 54 staff in these postal sectors, a simple database query allows Prospex to produce a map like this:

Planning required:

When planning to cope with a severe national shortage in transport fuel, the organisation should arrange to establish which individuals have highest priority in the allocation of emergency fuel rations. Could petrol rationing come to the UK again? In the Suez Crisis in 1956, doctors and midwives were allowed whatever petrol they needed. Now the man who lights the boiler comes by car.

A good start is to collect travel information from the outlying staff.

Other emergency situations such as those that make certain transport routes unavailable will be addressed in future postings.

Posted by Geoff Beacon, Chairman at Beacon Dodsworth


[i] Jeff Rubin points out that this century will see only a few exceptional years of growth because of the high cost of oil. He also emphasises that the demand from emerging countries will keep the price high. His argument is not that we have reached the end of oil but that the world has passed the point at which oil can be extracted cheaply.

[ii] “World oil demand will increase in 2012 despite a weak economic environment, according to a new report released by the International Energy Agency, with a stronger oil demand in emerging countries and declining demand in developed countries.”

[iii] The Guardian reports the closure of a refinery in Essex in The crisis in European refining :

Yet there may be a message for western Europe; unless the major oil companies stop simply assuming that the independents will take care of refining for them, then western Europe may soon have very little refining capacity at all … And if you believe being reliant on the Middle East for crude oil matters, then being reliant on their refiners for gasoline, diesel and fuel for aeroplanes might matter just a bit more.

[iv] The Courier reports Terrorist threat could see RAF Leuchars spared:

The ability of the Fife base to quickly intercept any 9/11-type airborne terrorist attacks could be key to securing the base’s future. Fast jets could, for example, be at Grangemouth oil refinery in a matter of seconds.

[v] Should we be more concerned with the men in a van attacks on refining capacity? In Security Economics and Critical National Infrastructure Anderson and Fuloria say :

If a small terrorist group – a latter-day Timothy McVeigh – were to blow up a single oil refinery, that might cost $1bn: say $500m of damage and $500m of lost profits during rebuilding. The oil company and its insurers could surely cope. However, if a more organised terrorist group – say Al-Qaida – were to blow up six oil refineries, then chaos and petrol rationing would ensue, with significant damage to the economy. For example, Britain suffered a strike by fuel-tanker drivers in 2001 that caused major disruption for weeks; the loss of six oil refineries might have a comparable impact but for a year or more, leading to social costs in the tens or even hundreds of billions.


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