Bomb cyclone’ hits US East Coast energy, power supply

A severe winter storm froze pipes and disrupted services at refineries on the US Atlantic coast on Thursday, sending fuel prices higher as heavy snowfall and high winds caused electricity outages for almost 80,000 homes and businesses.

The only nuclear plant in Massachusetts was shut just after 2 p.m. because of the failure of a line that connects the reactor to the power grid. Entergy Corp, which operates the Pilgrim Station, said it had not identified the cause of the line problem. ISO New England, which operates the region’s power grid, attributed the shutdown to blizzard conditions. The company did not say when the station would restart.Utilities in the Southeast have restored service to some customers who were hit by the storm overnight.Heavy snow pounded the East Coast from Maine as far south as North Carolina on Thursday, taking out power lines, icing roadways and closing schools. The storm was powered by a rapid plunge in barometric pressure that some weather forecasters referred to as bombogenesis or a “bomb cyclone,” which brought high winds and swift, heavy snowfall. The region has also been in the grip of a prolonged cold spell.

Prices for heating oil and natural gas in the U.S. Northeast hit their highest levels in years on the back of near-record heating demand. Benchmark US heating oil futures are near their highest in almost three years. The US average home residential heating oil prices rose 5.4 percent to $3.078 a gallon in the week through Jan. 1 from a week earlier, according to data from the US Energy Information Administration. On the East Coast, prices rose 5.4 percent to $3.085 a gallon.

The US average residential heating oil prices for the 2017-18 period are well above the 2016-17 levels, the data showed. The US natural gas demand was expected to remain near record highs this week. Natural gas is the major fuel for residential and commercial heating in the U.S. Northeast and is also widely used by power plants. On Thursday, natural gas futures fell 12.8 cents, or 4.3 percent, to settle at $2.880 per million British thermal units. That was the biggest one-day decline for the contract in three weeks as less cold weather was predicted. However, regional prices soared under pressure from the cold snap.

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