United States refinery activity plummets as Harvey hits Gulf Coast, DoE says

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures CLc1 were down 18 cents, or 0.4 percent, at $48.98 barrel at 0687 GMT, but were still close to their highest in more than three weeks, reached in the previous session.

Oil headed for the first weekly gain since July as Gulf Coast refiners ramp up crude processing after disruptions from Hurricane Harvey.

Traders said that the dip was a result of low refining activity following Hurricane Harvey, which hit the US Gulf coast two weeks ago and knocked out nearly a quarter of the country's huge refinery industry, cutting demand for crude oil, refining's lifeblood.

Weaker demand has resulted in higher crude inventory levels in the US, with concerns about excess supply weighing on prices over the past two weeks.


"We project that the hurricane will have added 40 million barrels to USA crude inventories in the month following landfall", the analysts said.

But as the refinery sector gradually recovers, so is its crude processing.

All told, commercial petroleum inventories rose by 7 million barrels in the week ended September 1, the Energy Department said in its weekly report on Thursday.

On Friday, oil prices eased after almost a week of steep increases as Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful storms in a century, is steering towards Florida after ripping through the Caribbean.


It also reported that domestic refinery utilization dropped to 79.7% of capacity from 96.6% a week earlier.

"With another hurricane threatening to hit the U.S. coast, traders still remain cautious".

Bloomberg news agency reported that as of September 8, only 8 percent of the oil refining capacity remained withdrawn after the Hurricane Harvey. Six Gulf Coast refineries, accounting for 9% of USA refining capacity, remained closed as of Tuesday afternoon, according to the Energy Department.

Next week, the market will see monthly reports from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and the International Energy Agency on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. Production wasn't impacted, the company said it has enough supplies to meet the needs of its wholesale customers, "but we expect intermittent terminal supply outages and will continue working to locate alternate supplies of gasoline, diesel and other refined fuels as needed". Gasoline inventories were down by 2.544 million barrels. It is down about 5% for the week.


"Hurricanes can have a lasting effect on refinery and industry demand", said Eugen Weinberg, head of commodities research at Commerzbank in Frankfurt.


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