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Associated Press: Port of Providence dock damaged by fire to reopen before winter

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A Port of Providence dock that serves as the main distribution point for Rhode Island’s gasoline and home heating oil supply will reopen within two months after being closed by a fire last week.

Motiva Enterprises, the company that operates the dock, announced plans Wednesday to repair and reopen the north half of the dock in six to eight weeks. At that point, deliveries of gasoline to Rhode Island should return to normal, Motiva spokesman Brian Delaney said.

No gasoline has been delivered to the Providence terminal since a fire erupted during a thunderstorm last week and severely damaged the south side of the dock. Motiva has been directing shipments to its terminals in Bridgeport and New Haven, Conn., and then trucking gasoline into Rhode Island. It also has hired some other suppliers to bring in fuel.

Motiva Enterprises is a Houston-based joint operation between Saudi Refining Inc. and Shell Oil Co. Its terminal in Providence normally receives 1.6 million gallons of gasoline each day, supplying 102 Shell and many independent stations, Delaney said.

A few stations have run out of one grade of gasoline or another in the past week, but Andrew Dzykewicz, the governor’s energy adviser, said deliveries have been made or scheduled for all of them.

“We were very lucky, and it’s really going to be minimal disruption,” Dzykewicz said.

Gov. Don Carcieri made a half-hour stop at the Motiva terminal Wednesday to assess progress on cleanup and repairs. He said he had been concerned by trade journal reports that the dock would be closed for six months or more.

After touring the dock area and speaking to Motiva officials, Carcieri said he was satisfied that heating oil would be delivered to the terminal before winter and that gasoline deliveries would resume relatively quickly.

“There should not be any outages,” he said.

Motiva plans to reopen the north side of its Providence dock, which sustained minimal damage in the fire, within six to eight weeks, Delaney said.  Barges carrying fuel can unload there, and deliveries to Rhode Island should be “virtually at 100 percent,” he said.

The company will then repair the south side of the dock, where tankers unload. Delaney said storage tanks, pipes and truck loading facilities at the Motiva terminal were not damaged in the dock fire.

The State Energy Office and AAA of Southern New England have reported small increases in gasoline prices in the past week, but Delaney said it’s hard to know whether the fire and dock closure contributed to that. Prices were already going up.

“There are so many things that affect prices, that I’m not sure that this does,” he said.

A Danish ship was unloading fuel when the fire started on July 18. Crew members were able to pull the ship away from the dock before it was damaged.

Carcieri has asked for an investigation into why gasoline was being unloaded when the lightning storm was predicted hours before the fire. He said he expects to receive a report from the Coast Guard within a few weeks.

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