Irma squeezing U.S. gasoline supplies

Harvey, meanwhile, sparked "panic buying" and left some stations still without fuel.
By Daniel J. Graeber  |  Sept. 7, 2017 at 6:18 AM
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Sept. 7 (UPI) -- While parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast are recovering from Hurricane Harvey, Irma's move through the Caribbean is causing gasoline shortages, data tracking show.

Refineries and production centers along the U.S. Gulf Coast are in the process of restarting after Harvey made landfall and late August and lingered over the region for the better part of a week, causing heavy flooding and leading to around 60 deaths. Irma is a Category 5 storm and triggering warnings for the Dominican Republic and Haiti for Thursday. Irma is moving west and could hit Florida and move northwest during the weekend.

Irma's path is triggering consumer demand issues because of the lack of refineries. Florida has no refineries of its own and tracking data supplied by email from price tracking company GasBuddy show some major metropolitan areas are running out of fuel. As many as 34 percent of the retail service stations in the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale region were confirmed to be without gas.

"The situation in Texas is improving while Florida is starting to see outages rise at a relatively fast pace," Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy, said in a statement emailed late Wednesday.

Further north, about 7 percent of the stations in Augusta, Ga., were without gas, while GasBuddy's data show 15 percent of the stations in Houston, one of the cities hardest hit by Harvey, are still without supplies.

According to motor club AAA, the national average price for a gallon of gas is, at $2.67, about 14 percent higher than this time last month.

Regulators in Texas called for patience, meanwhile, reminding consumers that the last legs in the supply chain are serviced by trucks. Most service stations will be back in operation within the next two days.

"Unfortunately, hoarding and panic buying have placed unnecessary strains on gasoline supplies at pumps in certain pockets of Texas, but the situation continues to improve and will likely be resolved within the next day or two," Ryan Sitton with the Railroad Commission of Texas, the state energy regulator, said in a statement.

The U.S. Energy Department said in its latest update that five Gulf Coast refineries were still shut down, representing about 6 percent of total U.S. refining capacity. Gasoline stocks for parts of the country that could be impacted by Irma are at the top end of the five-year range and regulators have issued waivers for some gasoline requirements in an effort to offset the expected supply-side strains.

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