Gasoline prices head higher while motorists panic

03 September, 2017, 20:45 | Author: Valerie Burke
  • Harvey has taken 25 percent of oil and natural gas production offline

According to AAA Kansas, the average Kansas per gallon price was $2.28 on Wednesday.

The closures rattled global fuel markets, and European and Asian traders diverted millions of barrels of gasoline and diesel to the Americas to help fill the gap.

Hurricane Harvey's impact on gasoline supplies and prices is beginning to be felt well outside the Texas Gulf Coast storm zone.

To be sure, USA motorists will feel the pinch from rising gasoline prices as refined products supplies are shut in, and US energy companies with Gulf of Mexico production or refining capacity, such as Exxon Mobil Corp.

The government plans to supply 1 million barrels of crude from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to a Gulf Coast plant, the first emergency release in five years.

Traders were also scrambling to redirect fuel to the United States.

Joe McMonigle, a former Energy Department official during the Bush administration, said Jones Act waivers would make it more economical for Northeast refiners to receive oil stuck in the U.S. Gulf rather than source it from Nigeria or other places overseas.

Gasoline stocks USOILG=ECI rose by 35,000 barrels, compared with analysts' expectations in a Reuters poll for a 1.0 million-barrel drop.

The International Energy Agency, which co-ordinates releases of government-held fuel stocks in the event of major disruptions, said it believed the USA had plentiful petrol and diesel inventories to ride out current supply issues. Gasoline was up 21.03 cents, or 11.2 percent, at $2.0950 at 1:53 p.m. (1753 GMT).

Almost a quarter of US fuel output was knocked out since Harvey made landfall on Friday in Texas, where several large refiners are located.

As ports from Corpus Christi, Texas to Lake Charles, La. begin to reopen, although with restrictions, and some US refineries in Texas begin to resume operations, oil markets calmed a bit Friday.

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Price Futures Group analyst Phil Flynn, typically a bull on energy prices, wrote in his daily note that the release of SPR and temporary waiver on gasoline specifications "should take away some (of the) upward price pressure".

As of the close on Wednesday, WTI was at $45.96 a barrel, some $4.90 below Brent, a far bigger discount than the $2.62 that prevailed at the start of August. It had fallen by just over 2 per cent in the previous session.

"The market has turned in reverse pretty sharply", said Gene McGillian, manager of market research at Tradition Energy. "You do have some signs of rebalancing, regardless of Harvey", he said.

Harvey shows just how important the USA has become to the world's energy supply.

At the same time, the amount of crude entered into refineries reached a record high of 17.73 million bpd, the data showed. Crude inventories are 14.5 per cent below record levels hit in March.

"Next week's EIA data should see large draws in products due to refinery outages, prompting large builds in oil inventories", said John Macaluso, an analyst at Tyche Capital Advisors.

Right now U.S. shale crude won't be leaving the U.S. Gulf Coast, meaning buyers will have to seek short-term alternatives, such as buying light grades from West Africa or Southeast Asia. "But by the end of September, I expect the situation to be nearly back to normal", said Frank Schallenberger, head of commodity research at LBBW.

The poll was carried out before Hurricane Harvey hit US shores, curtailing USA refining by a fifth and disrupting offshore production.

"Best case: the refinery should be up and operating again for the most part by the middle of September". LaDoucer says the jump in price is greatest in eastern and southern states that get gasoline from the Gulf where refineries and pipelines are shut down.

Tessa Sandstrom, spokeswoman for the North Dakota Petroleum Council, also said no impact is apparent as far as markets, although some companies report more difficulty in getting fix parts for oil-field equipment.


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