Petroleum Engineering Alumni Help Deliver Fuel to Communities Affected By Natural Disasters

September 27, 2021

When Hurricane Ida smashed through Louisiana in August, it left a million people without power. As they tended to fallen trees and destroyed homes, a new problem emerged — no more fuel to power vehicles and generators. That’s when alumnus Hamzah Moin (B.S. Petroleum Engineering 2020) and fellow volunteers with the nonprofit Fuel Relief Fund (FRF) deployed to the state.

Over the next 12 days, Moin and other volunteers delivered more than 30,000 gallons of fuel. They filled 100-gallon bladders and drove street by street looking for those who needed gas. Once large tankers arrived — four in total — they worked long days topping off the tanks of anyone who could get to their base camp.

“As we drove around, we saw huge trees that the winds had ripped the leaves right off of and piles of wood instead of houses,” said Moin, who is currently working on his master’s degree in computer science. “Some of the houses that did make it through still had tarps on their roofs from Hurricane Laura last year. It was surreal.”

HamzahMoin DevikaManish PGE2020grads

Moin got involved with Fuel Relief Fund thanks to fellow alumna Devika Manish Kumar (B.S. Petroleum Engineering 2020), who discovered the nonprofit online and has been a volunteer since February. “As a petroleum engineer, I know all about upstream production,” Manish Kumar said, “but I wanted to know more about the downstream part of the cycle, where oil and gas gets to the customer.”

Or doesn’t, as the case may be. “It’s easy to take it for granted — you assume your tank of gas is going to be full,” said Manish Kumar, a former reservoir engineer at Shell who now works at EDF Renewables in San Diego. “But infrastructure is often damaged in disasters. Ordinary people can’t get fuel, and agencies trying to help can’t get fuel either.”

Last April, Manish Kumar helped create an informational video about Fuel Relief Fund for other humanitarian organizations attending a virtual event hosted by the World Food Programme’s Logistics Cluster. Then, she and Moin spent the summer working on a deployment rubric to guide FRF leaders as they made decisions about which disasters they could respond to most effectively and safely.

Enter Ida. As Manish Kumar and Moin learned of flooded refineries, destroyed gas stations and widespread power outages, they knew FRF could help.

“Those of us from the Gulf Coast, we have oil and gas in our backyards and assume it’s always going to be there,” Manish Kumar said. “It’s easy to forget that our infrastructure can be vulnerable and fragile.”

That’s a lesson Moin, who immigrated from Pakistan in 2014, understands well. “I’ve always wanted a career in energy because I know firsthand what happens when you don’t have it.”