Gasoline prices fall following hurricanes
While the cleanup is just beginning following back-toback hurricanes, the damage to the country’s oil and natural gas infrastructure so far appears to be limited.
Refineries are returning to service, and gasoline again is flowing throughout most of the country.
Much of Florida and parts of the Caribbean still are without electricity, but crews are working to repair power plants and lines damaged from the storms.
Landlocked Oklahoma was spared the direct effects of the hurricanes, but gasoline was rerouted from the state to help make up for shortfalls in Texas, causing average prices to surge 25 cents in Oklahoma City. Over the past week, however, prices have decreased steadily.
The decline likely will continue over the next several weeks as the remaining affected refineries return to service. Friday also marks the beginning of the winter fuel season, when refineries are allowed to sell less-expensive winterblend fuels, although the federal government waved some of the more costly summer-blend requirements early after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas.
Gas prices in OKC
Oklahoma City’s average gasoline price was almost $2.18 a gallon Thursday, down 9 cents over the past week, but up 14 cents over the past month. The price is about 19 cents higher than a year ago. Thursday’s national average was almost $2.65 a gallon, down 2.7 cents over the past week, but still up 30 cents over the past month. The price is about 46 cents higher than one year ago.
While the recent gasoline price jump has been relatively short-lived, it has been a double hit to the Oklahoma economy because gasoline prices jumped without a corresponding rise in oil prices. As a result, consumers paid more without benefiting local oil companies, their employers and state and local coffers.
Restarting refineries has both helped push down gasoline prices and been a boost for oil producers.
Oil prices rally this week
Domestic benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude briefly topped $50 a barrel Thursday before ending the day at $49.89, up 59 cents, or 1.2 percent. Thursday marked the fourth consecutive oil price gain. Besides the U.S. refineries, this week’s oil rally has been fueled by growing expectation of rising global oil demand and by a continuing effort by Saudi Arabia for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and other large producers to extend production cuts.
The International Energy Agency said Wednesday that world oil production was down 720,000 barrels a day in August, led by civil unrest in Libya and disruptions in the United States because of Hurricane Harvey.
The benchmark natural gas price added a penny Thursday to $3.07 per thousand cubic feet, up 6.2 percent this week.
A flame burns at the Shell Deer Park oil refinery in Deer Park, Texas, in this Aug. 31 photo.