Both crude oil and gasoline have been hit by volatile trading this month as investors weighed the challenge to consumption posed by the resurgence of the pandemic in parts of Asia, the U.S. and Europe. This week, traders will focus on the fall-out from Ida, as well as the likelihood that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies will go ahead with an increase in output when they meet.
“The market will be looking at the product stocks and the risks of onshore damage from Ida,” said Matt Stanley, a senior broker at Star Fuels in Dubai. “Now that the storm has made landfall it looks like the worst is past for the offshore platforms and over the next couple of days operators can look at getting those back up.”
Gulf of Mexico producers shut in more than 1.7 million barrels a day of crude output — about 15% of the total for the U.S. — ahead of the storm. The focus for crude markets is now shifting back to the virus and OPEC+, Stanley said.
Refiners including Valero Energy Corp. shut about 12% of U.S. oil-processing capacity as a precaution ahead of the Category 4 storm, which has stronger winds than Katrina in 2005. Colonial Pipeline Co., the operator of the largest fuel-distribution system from the refining centers in Texas and Louisiana to customers across the eastern U.S., idled its main network.
Gasoline prices in the southeast U.S. could climb heading into the end of summer if refineries suffer extensive damage or can’t get power and are forced to stay shut for an extended period, adding to the price inflation hitting Americans. Traders in Europe have already been preparing to fill any gap in supplies at New York Harbor, provisionally chartering tankers. Still, those would take as much as two weeks to cross the Atlantic.
“For a Category 4, you could be looking at four to six weeks or more of downtime for the refineries,” said Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates LLC in Houston.
Ida, which came ashore about 60 miles (97 kilometers) south of New Orleans, drove up ocean levels as much as 16 feet (4.9 meters). The hurricane’s 150-mile-per-hour winds tie Louisiana’s record set by Laura in 2020 and a 19th century storm.