Oil prices recoup as US Gulf Coast restarts

Panic buying, closed roads causing some gas shortages

The $2.44 price average Thursday was the highest recorded price for a gallon of unleaded gasoline so far in 2017, according to AAA. These small shortages force a spread of consumer panic as prices rise, though, and even a marginal surge of fuel demand can put unnecessary strain on national supply. According to AAA, this is the highest point gas has reached this year.

Until the spike following Harvey, Buffalo's gas prices were relatively stable.

At other stations regular sits near the state average of $2.53 a gallon.

Prices have increased by 29 cents per gallon in the past week and 12 cents overnight in Georgia - bringing the state's average to $2.50.

The rush to higher prices here over the last 24 hours began when Speedway, owned by Ohio-based Marathon Petroleum Corp., pushed prices at many of its hundreds of stations to $2.59 a gallon on Thursday.

It is the first emergency release from the SPR since Hurricane Isaac hit Louisiana and disrupted processing in 2012.

"There's obviously been severe disruptions in the products market, almost four million barrels per day of refining capacity was offline", says Amrita Sen, chief oil analyst at Energy Aspects.

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The storm took down a quarter of US oil refining capacity and lifted average gasoline prices by more than 20 cents since August 23. "The bottleneck is at the refining level". The floodwaters knocked around 20 percent of America's refinery capacity offline and shut down a major East Coast pipeline which carries more than 3 million barrels of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.

"One out of every eight barrels that people consume comes through the Colonial Pipeline". We now have 10 refineries down.

Harvey was not the only influence on pump prices this week.

"It is right there with Memorial Day weekend (and) Independence Day, where we have more than 35 million Americans traveling, and we will say 85 to 89 percent of these travelers are on the road", AAA Miami field manager Juan Rivera said.

"We do see some distribution snags".

Drivers in Dallas waited in line Thursday to fill up their tanks, anxious that refinery and pipeline shutdowns along the Gulf Coast would cause a gas shortage. "By the end of the month, we should have some relief". "It's really just a matter of when they can get back on track".

The company's Ingleside Energy Center oil export terminal, with capacity to handle 300,000 barrels per day (bpd), has resumed activities and plans to continue alleviating congestion for crude producers in the U.S Permian basin, where Occidental operates large output facilities. The refinery was shut on Wednesday. "Refineries are slowly coming on line, but it's going to take a while". "The shutdown of U.S. refineries is pulling down crude prices and pushing up prices of petroleum products". Mack doubted that will have an immediate impact on pump prices. But he said it'll be mid to late September before it will all be up and running.

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