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Earthquake Preparedness for Energy Industry


Owners and operators of energy sectors, typically manage earthquake risks based on short-term earthquake risk detection models by using a variety of techniques, such as:

  1. Seismic hazard assessments: These assessments evaluate the likelihood of an earthquake occurring in a specific area and the potential impact on infrastructure.
  2. Site-specific engineering evaluations: These evaluations consider the specific characteristics of a facility, such as its age, design, and location, to determine its vulnerability to earthquakes.
  3. Safety and emergency response plans: These plans outline procedures for responding to and recovering from earthquakes, including shutting down facilities and evacuating personnel.
  4. Regular inspections and maintenance: Owners and operators of energy sectors conduct regular inspections and maintenance of their facilities to ensure they are in good condition and can withstand earthquakes.
  5. Risk reduction measures: Owners and operators may implement risk reduction measures such as retrofitting or upgrading facilities to make them more resistant to earthquakes, or installing monitoring systems to detect earthquakes.
  6. Preparing for emergency: They also prepare for emergency response and recovery in the event of an earthquake, including having emergency backup power and communication systems in place.
  7. Cooperation with external organizations: They also cooperate with external organizations such as geology departments, seismologists and other experts to stay updated on th

Earthquake Risk Transfer in the Energy Sector

There are many of the energy infrastructure hub facilities are located in an area with significant seismic hazard. Significant liquid fuel, natural gas, electrical infrastructure and facilities are situated in a relatively small area.

  • Major liquid fuel port terminals
  • Liquid fuel transmission pipelines and transfer stations
  • Natural gas transmission pipelines
  • Liquefied natural gas storage facility
  • High voltage electric substations and transmission lines
  • Electrical substations for local distribution

Critical Energy Infrastructure Hub

A major earthquake would impact the Critical Energy Infrastructure Hub with:

  • Ground shaking
  • Liquefaction (soil behavior phenomenon in which a saturated sand softens and loses strength during strong earthquake ground shaking)
  • Lateral spreading (where surficial soil permanently moves laterally due to earthquake shaking)
  • Landslides
  • Co-seismic settlement (where the ground surface is permanently lowered due to seismic shaking)
  • Bearing capacity failures (when the foundation soil cannot support the structure it is intended to support)

In addition, secondary seismic hazards could be initiated and include:

  • Seiches (waves that oscillate in water bodies often initiated by ground shaking)
  • Fire
  • Hazardous material releases, including by sloshing of liquid agitated by ground shaking

Liquid Fuel

Liquid fuel pipeline: The CEI Hub petroleum facilities mostly receive liquid fuel via two methods:

  • Liquid fuel transmission pipeline
  • Marine vessels

The transportation method and amounts vary due to product need, transportation costs, weather and other conditions. Most of the liquid fuel pipeline was largely constructed, when the regional seismic hazards were unknown and state-of-practice construction techniques at that time did not include any reference to seismic standards. The regional seismic hazards are now known to be significant, and the soil crossings are susceptible to liquefaction and lateral spreading. The vintage pipeline design did not consider ground movements from the stresses to the pipelines induced by earthquakes that may cause pipe damage and multiple breaks. A pipe break would have a significant impact on all of the petrochemical facilities in CEI Hubs and could result in a statewide fuel shortage. Shipping channel: Shipping channels which use marine vessel to transport fuel are expected to have tsunami damage and such channels are expected to experience slope failure, which would close the channel to traffic. It is possible that bridges and other river crossings, such as buried gas pipelines and electrical crossings, would be damaged and temporarily block the waterway. Closure of the shipping channel would prevent marine vessels from delivering liquid fuel as well as emergency response and recovery equipment from being delivered. Marine terminals: All of the port facilities in the CEI Hub have significant seismic risks due to liquefaction, lateral spreading, and seiches. Some older piers were constructed without any seismic protection, have deteriorated, and are likely to fail in even a moderate earthquake. If oil products are released and contaminant the navigable waterway, the waterway may be closed to river traffic thus impeding emergency response activities as well as the supply chain. The local capacity to fight fires and clean hazardous material spills is limited. Fuel supply: Tanks are known to have liquefaction vulnerabilities. If daily supply chain is disrupted by pipe breaks of the CEI Hubs and closure of the shipping channel fuel would quickly become scarce. Options to transport fuel from the other channels including by air are very limited.

Natural Gas

Natural gas: The largest natural gas service provider receives the majority of their natural gas from pipelines. As soils are subject to liquefaction and lateral spreading, the pipes that are constructed without seismic design provisions can and the consequences of potential pipe failures could be major for natural gas service. The natural gas company’s storage capacity is limited, and pipe breaks could lead to a natural gas shortfall as well as explosions or fires.


Electrical facilities: Electrical facilities and systems have significant seismic risk due to ground shaking and ground failure, including liquefaction and lateral spreading. Seismically vulnerable facilities include substations and transmission in CEI Hubs as well as facilities outside of the CEI Hubs, including power plants, substations and transmission lines, all which are important for distribution. Major vulnerabilities in the CEI Hub include the control buildings, transformers and other electrical equipment in yards at the substations, and transmission towers. Damage is likely to occur to both the transmission system and the distribution system in CEI Hubs. Damages to the electrical grid will likely result in a blackout in CEI Hubs and elsewhere.