Area fuel prices soar as Hurricane Harvey shuts down Texas refinery and pipeline; price spike expected to be short term
The jump in gas prices in Craig during the past week is the result of the combined impacts of reduced refining during Hurricane Harvey and Labor Day weekend demand. The higher prices are not expected to last long.
On Aug. 28, as Hurricane Harvey was dumping record rains over vast areas of Texas and Louisiana, the price per gallon of unleaded gasoline jumped from $2.54 to $2.69 at Craig Kum & Go locations. The store’s diesel fuel was priced at $2.74 per gallon.
At Loaf N’ Jug in Craig, unleaded was $2.76 and diesel was $2.79 the same day.
Craig resident Shirley Cromer noticed the increase and posted about it on Facebook.
“It always goes (up) when a natural disaster hits and/or the holidays. This time, I think it’s the combination of both,” Cromer wrote.
And she’s right. According to AAA, the national gasoline price average jumped to more than $2.61 per gallon Sunday, reaching the highest pump price of the year. The last time the national gas price average was higher than $2.50 per gallon was two years ago, in August of 2015, according to AAA. Prices in Craig were higher than the average, but lower than the more than $3 per gallon paid by people in on the West Coast.
The cause of the price increase was a combination of numerous refinery and pipeline shutdowns, tightened access to supply levels in the Gulf of Mexico and anticipated high gasoline demand surrounding Labor Day weekend, according to AAA.
The Department of Energy reported that 10 Gulf Coast refineries shut down and remained shuttered for most of last week. By Aug. 30, six refineries had begun assessing damage and restarting, a process that can take several days.
To address the supply stoppage, the U.S. Department of Energy released 500,000 barrels of oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve — the nation’s reserve of crude oil — late last week and could release more if deemed necessary.
In addition to refinery shutdowns, several major pipelines continue to operate at reduced rates, have shut down or plan to shut down due to lack of supply.
“The shutdowns do not indicate a shortage of gasoline supplies in the Gulf Coast region or across the country,” said Jeanette Casselano, AAA spokesperson. “These are preventative measures. Overall, stocks in the Gulf are above average levels and will be available to drivers once power is restored and area roads are cleared.”
Exactly how long gas prices will remain high is uncertain until the Corpus Christi refineries come back online and the Houston/Galveston refineries begin to dry out.
“AAA does not expect refineries to be offline for months, as early reports indicate minimal to no significant damage to Corpus Christi and Houston refineries,” Casselano added.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.