Mr. Kloza said he was a bit surprised that operations had not suffered more damage-related delays, but he noted that the hurricane had inflicted more damage from rain than from wind. In the past, heavy winds have caused the most damage to the region’s energy infrastructure.
In the days after the storm’s landfall, as much as a third of the nation’s refinery capacity was shut down, enough to halt delivery of Texas petroleum products to the Northeast through the Colonial Pipeline.
The total refining capacity now off line is 16 percent, according to estimates by IHS Markit, an analytics and consulting firm. The firm projects a quickening pace of normal refining through the weekend.
“The faster-than-expected recovery by the refining industry has calmed product markets,” according to an IHS Markit report, with market prices for gasoline declining through much of the week.
As Hurricane Irma hits Florida, it will depress gasoline demand, which could help bring prices at the pump down.
But the storm could have an impact on supplies if it damages or otherwise shuts down operations at Buckeye Partners’ storage hub in Freeport, Grand Bahama Island. The facility, with as much as 26 million barrels of crude and products in storage, is a strategic center for blending and transshipment operations for petroleum trade between the Gulf of Mexico, the East Coast and even markets in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.
Otherwise, there is much good news for oil companies along the gulf coast after weeks of worry. The Saudi-owned Motiva refinery in Port Arthur, Tex., the biggest in the country, should be up to 40 percent of its capacity over the weekend. The slowest site to resume operations has been Exxon Mobil’s Beaumont refinery, but energy experts say it is typical for Exxon Mobil to gradually examine its instrumentation and take other extra precautions to avert accidents before restarting.
Corpus Christi, which was close to Harvey’s strongest winds, is again receiving tankers with fuel to supply its refineries, and crude exports are being loaded again. The channels that are the main arteries for petroleum loading and unloading in Texas City and Houston are mainly open, and the three refineries in Lake Charles, La., are receiving oil imports again.
Sometimes damage, especially to underwater pipelines, can take weeks to detect.
Harvey has had a smaller impact on the national energy picture than previous large storms that hit the area. In part that is because refineries have built stronger protections against flooding in recent years, and offshore production platforms have been made sturdier. And while the gulf area accounted for a quarter of national oil production a decade ago, the figure is now less than 20 percent, given the advent of shale drilling inland.
Crude prices soared roughly 10 percent when Hurricane Katrina hit the Louisiana coast in 2005. During Hurricane Harvey, oil price swings were moderate. With the summer driving season almost over, demand for gasoline will naturally subside, and prices at the pump should begin to ease as they normally do in the fall.
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