Oil prices down as United States reels from Harvey

WTI Crude Oil

The national US gasoline price on Monday stands at $2.38 per gallon, up more than 5 cents from a week ago.

Crude prices recovered slightly in Asian trade on Tuesday a day after heavy falls caused by the impact of monster storm Harvey on a key U.S. oil-producing region.

International Brent crude futures were down 7 cents at $51.82 a barrel, having traded as high as $52.19 and as low as $51.36 earlier in the day.

Contrary to analysts' bullish forecasts before Harvey arrived, the price for West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude dropped almost three percent on Monday and settled at $46.57 - the worst daily performance since July 7.

As a result, the discount of US WTI versus Brent surpassed $5 per barrel, its widest in more than two years.

Although South Texas is also a center for oil and gas production as well, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said on Sunday that only about 378,000 barrels per day of production have been disrupted from the storm. The contract's peak was $1.7888, the highest for NYMEX gasoline since July 2015.

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Crude traded in a narrow but volatile range on Tuesday as the market grappled with the shutdown of some 13 per cent of refining capacity in the United States, the world's largest oil consumer, after a hurricane ripped through the heart of its oil industry. Some refineries were preparing for restarts, but heavy rains are expected to last through Wednesday, adding to catastrophic flooding in Houston.

Motiva Enterprises made a decision to close its 603,000bpd plant in Port Arthur, Texas, while Total halved the output of its refinery, which is in the same area.

"The impact could linger for several weeks or longer, depending on how long it takes Texas refiners to return to normal operations", DeHaan said.

Despite these disruptions, crude remains in ample supply, resulting in low prices.

Refinery closures has shifted gasoline futures higher however, as it makes the product harder to come by and thus priced higher. Jefferies bank said it was lowering its fourth-quarter Brent oil price estimates to $55 a barrel from $60 and its 2018 forecast to $57 from $64.

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