Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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Texas refineries still reel from Harvey

More than a dozen on Gulf Coast remain closed from storm


Storage tanks in retention ponds are surrounded by water left behind by Tropical Storm Harvey at ExxonMobil’s refinery in Baytown, Texas. Restarts at refineries are taking time.


Hurricane Harvey packed such a powerful punch that more than a dozen Gulf Coast oil refineries are still hurting two weeks after the storm struck Texas.

Five oil refineries remain shuttered as of Monday, according to S&P Global Platts, an energy research firm. Ten more are partially shut down as they attempt to recover from historic flooding.

All told, about 2.4 million barrels of daily refining capacity in Texas is offline because of Harvey, Platts estimates. That is about 13 percent of the country’s total ability to turn oil into gasoline, jet fuel, and other products.

“It’s pretty massive,” said Jake Eubank, manager of refining and processing at the research firm Genscape.

Harvey dealt a serious blow to America’s energy infrastructure, knocking oil rigs offline, disrupting shale oil drilling inland, and closing key ports. But refiners had the biggest hit. At one point, about 4 million barrels of refining capacity was shut down. Gas prices spiked.

Comeback efforts have been disrupted by flooding, damage, power outages, and challenges created by the sudden nature of some shutdowns.

“When refinery units go offline unexpectedly, it tends to be harder to get them back online,” Mr. Eubank said. “I would expect it will be a couple of weeks before we’re completely back to normal.”

Goldman Sachs said Monday it’s taking longer than expected to bring refineries back to normal.

“The recovery is well under way, but the restarts are taking more time and, for some refiners, exposed more significant damage,” analysts wrote in a report.

ExxonMobil’s Beaumont refinery suffered severe flooding, and no restart date has been given, Goldman noted. An Exxon spokesman said the Beaumont refinery is developing plans to start up again. The facility processes 365,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

Shell’s Deer Park refinery also is still closed. A Shell spokesman said there is “no timetable” for when Deer Park will be fully operational.

Platts lists three more refineries as offline: Total’s Port Arthur refinery and separate facilities in Corpus Christi run by Magellan and Buckeye.

The largest U.S. refinery, Motiva Enterprises’ Port Arthur facility, is still partially closed, according to Platts. 

The good news for drivers is that the average price has held steady for five days at $2.67 a gallon, up from $2.36 a month ago, according to AAA.

“We’ve peaked. We’re going to see sharply lower prices,” said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service.

Unfortunately, the hurricanes have caused whole regions of the nation to grind to a halt, hurting demand for gas.

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