AAA: NE gas prices up 23 cents since Harvey hit

A boat runs through floodwaters of Tropical Storm Harvey near a gas station on Friday Sept. 1 2017 near Vidor Texas

October West Texas Intermediate crude rose 6 cents, or 0.1%, to settle at $US47.29 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Global benchmark Brent crude was trading at $52.75, per barrel, down by 0.21 per cent when the markets closed on Friday.

But now, analysts say the price of gas may continue to spike because of Harvey's impact and a new hurricane that is expected to wreak more havoc later this week. That was fueled by the fact that much of its impact fell on refineries and shipping ports along the Gulf Coast, taking away about 25 percent of production capacity.

"Depending on how devastating Hurricane Irma becomes, it will temporarily decide the direction of crude and gasoline prices", Ahn Yea Ha, a commodities analyst at Kiwoom Securities, said by phone in Seoul. NYMEX gasoline futures were down 4.2 per cent to $1.6755 a gallon, levels last seen on August 25, the day Harvey struck.

Demand for crude is set to rise as refinery capacity recovers, while the shortage that has buoyed gasoline prices is likely to ease.

But then Harvey knocked out about a quarter of USA refining capacity and shuttered transport routes for crude, gasoline, diesel and other products.

Producers shut down the country's two largest refineries: Motiva's 603,000-barrel-per-day facility in Port Arthur, Texas, and ExxonMobil's 560,500-barrel Baytown, Texas refinery.

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Refineries are quickly returning to production and only about 11 percent of all US refining capacity remained closed on Monday, Commerzbank said in a report. About a quarter of USA refining capacity was shuttered.

USA government data Thursday showed a 30 billion-cubic-foot weekly rise in natural-gas supplies, "the smallest build for the comparable week going back to 2003", said Richard Hastings, macro strategist at Seaport Global Securities. Now, depending on the track of Hurricane Irma, this could potentially send prices soaring or crashing on gas, depending on where she makes land fall.

This lack of demand has sent oil prices down to their lowest levels since late July (see Fig. 1). Meanwhile, pipelines forced to take pre-cautionary shut downs caused by Harvey either have resumed operations or are in the process of coming back online.

Companies that often ship US crude to Asia include BP BP.L , Chevron Corp CVX.N , Trafigura, Mercuria and Occidental in addition to North Asian refiners Unipec, PetroChina, JXTG 5020.T , Cosmo Energy 5021.T , GS Caltex and SK Energy.

November Brent oil rose $1.04, or 2%, to $53.38 a barrel-topping the $53 level for the first time since May.

Longer-term, the oil industry outlook is for ample supplies and low prices as crude output remains high in the three biggest producing regions: Russian Federation, the Middle East and North America.

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