Gasoline prices have been rising and oil costs have been changing as Hurricane Harvey’s winds and rising floodwaters slam into a part of Texas that has a significant portion of the nation’s oil industry, particularly oil refineries, shipping, and production.
By Monday, gasoline futures rose by as much as seven percent, hitting two-year highs as investors calculated that shutting down numerous refineries and other facilities could create shortages. At one point, crude oil future prices fell because refinery closures were expected to hurt demand for crude.
One report (on CNBC) says about one million barrels a day of refining capacity is off line.
About one fifth of the offshore crude oil production is also shut off as companies evacuated crews and closed production before the dangerous storm. Some shipping facilities have also been closed.
Harvey’s winds sometimes exceeded 200 kilometers per hour, and the storm brought an entire year’s worth of rain in just a few days, adding record floods to the wind damage. Severe rains are expected to continue for days, and it is not clear how long it will take for the water to recede and allow facilities to reopen and for staff to return.
It is also unclear how much damage has been done to critical energy infrastructure and how long it will take to return to full capacity.
More than six million people live in or near Houston, the biggest city in the storm’s path. Many fled before the storm, thousands have since been rescued, and tens of thousands are leaving flooded homes for emergency shelters.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency says 450,000 people are expected to seek government financial assistance because of the disaster.
The U.S. Federal Reserve, which supervises banks, says banks should try to work out accommodations with businesses and others that are having difficulty repaying loans because of the storm. The Fed says efforts to work with “borrowers under stress” can be consistent with “safe-and-sound” banking practices, and the public interest.