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Refiners assess Ike storm damage

Sept. 14, 2008 at 9:36 AM

WASHINGTON, Sept. 14 (UPI) -- U.S. oil producers say they're assessing the damage to their Texas refineries from Hurricane Ike as gas prices jumped across the nation.

Although it was still too early to gain an accurate picture, Exxon Mobil and Shell said power outages around Houston were hurting efforts to keep gasoline production rolling, the Washington Post reported Sunday.

It said Valero Energy, the nation's largest refiner, reported power was out at its Houston, Texas City and Port Arthur refineries.

Pipelines were also affected by the storm. Colonial Pipeline, which ships fuel from the Gulf Coast to the East Coast, said its Houston operations were down and that pipelines carrying natural gas and heating oil were closed.

AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman John Townsend said some areas have seen gas price gouging. Along the Gulf Coast, "prices have jumped in some cases to $5, and that's unconscionable," he said.

U.S. President George Bush warned against gas price gouging Saturday.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Energy said it would deliver 200,000 barrels of emergency oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to ConocoPhillips Co., and 109,000 barrels to Placid Oil's Port Allen refinery along a Shell pipeline in Louisiana.

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