AAA Reports Irma Packs a Punch in Southeast, Brings Uncertainty of Regional Fuel Levels – California Gas Prices Rise Four Cents Week Over Week
September 12, 2017 - For the first time in more than 15 days, the national gas price average appears to be leveling out despite Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irma making landfall in the southeast. Holding steady for five days at $2.67, today’s national gas price average is just three cents more expensive on the week. With a seven cents increase, Florida, Indiana and Georgia were among the top 10 states who saw the largest gas price increases on the week, while some states saw gas prices drop by one to six cents (Ohio, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Delaware and Oklahoma). At the end of last week, some Florida and other Southeast states saw consumers flock to gas stations to fill-up on fuel, causing some stations to have gas outages ahead of the storm.
According to the National Hurricane Center, Irma is weakening and will move near the northwestern coast of the Florida Peninsula this morning, will cross the eastern Florida Panhandle into Southern Georgia this afternoon, and move through southwestern Georgia and eastern Alabama tonight and Tuesday. Parts of Florida can expect eight to 20 inches of rain through Wednesday. Much of Georgia, South Carolina, and western North Carolina can expect three to eight inches of rain accumulation. Southern Tennessee and eastern Alabama can expect up to five inches.
“Irma was one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes in history,” said AAA Spokesperson Jeanette Casselano. “AAA’s thoughts are with all those impacted. The safety of our response teams and members is our number one priority. Our regional teams are on standby to assist members in affected areas as soon as conditions allow.”
Early reports indicate that Irma has left more than four million people without power, while water and debris cover roadways. Florida Power & Light (FPL) has 17,000 personnel from over 30 states on standby to aid restoration efforts.
Once power is restored and roads cleared, gasoline will be able to be delivered to stations in the impacted region, similar to what the Gulf Coast experienced post-Harvey.
“There is not a gasoline shortage in the U.S., but instead localized challenges — power outages, impassable roads, debris — in Florida keeping gasoline supplies from where they are needed most,” continued Casselano. “Total U.S. gasoline stocks sit above the five-year average. Since much of Florida’s gasoline delivery occurs via barge, all eyes will remain on port conditions as the storm passes.”
Currently, all Florida ports are closed while some in North and South Carolina are open with restrictions. To alleviate local supply disruptions, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security approved a Jones Act waiver for areas affected by the storms. The seven-day waiver will allow foreign flag vessels to bring in fuel to help with outages amid the response and recovery efforts.
Hurricane Harvey Impacted Refineries & Pipelines
As Floridians wait out the storm, Americans along the Gulf Coast continue to recover from Hurricane Harvey. According to the Department of Energy, at least five refineries in the Gulf Coast are operating at reduced rates, which accounts for eight percent of U.S. refining capacity. Six refineries are in the process of restarting, accounting for 12 percent of U.S. refining capacity. Five refineries remain shutdown, accounting for six percent of U.S. refining capacity. The restarting process can take several days or weeks, depending on damage. The Colonial Pipeline continues to experience a delivery delay of up to a week to Mid-Atlantic states.
“As refineries slowly come back online, states along the East Coast can expect gas prices to remain volatile as a result of already tight supply levels stemming from Harvey combined with the yet-to-be-known impact of Hurricane Irma,” added Casselano.
Today, 69 percent of gas stations in the U.S. are selling gas at $2.50 or more. Only seven percent list gas at $3 or more.
South and Southeast
Gas prices in the South and Southeast continue to increase, although the jumps are not as dramatic as seen last week: Florida (+7 cents), Georgia (+7 cents), Alabama (+5 cents), Tennessee (+4 cents) and South Carolina (+4 cents).
With no refineries in Florida, Hurricane Irma threatens already tightened gasoline supply levels caused by Harvey. As Gulf Coast refineries come back online and increase operating rates, the Colonial Pipeline, which provides gasoline from Houston, TX to Greensboro, N.C, is experiencing delivery delays of up to a week to Mid-Atlantic states. As a result, many South and Southeast states will likely see continued gas price increases stemming from Harvey and now Irma.
Mid-Atlantic and Northeast
Gas prices in states across the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast have seen moderate increases, typically in the range of one to three cents, following last week’s double-digit increases. New Hampshire ($2.69) leads the region in increases, with the average price for unleaded gasoline rising six cents since last week. New York ($2.83), Rhode Island ($2.75), Vermont ($2.76) and Maine ($2.74), are close behind as the average price for unleaded gasoline in each state rose by a nickel since last Monday. An outlier, Delaware’s gas price fell one cent to $2.69. According to the latest Energy Information Administration (EIA) report, regional gasoline supplies dropped to 60.5 million last week. The drop reflects tightening supply due to those refineries still remaining offline after Hurricane Harvey and prices are increasing for the same reason. As pipelines and refineries return to their full operations in the region, prices should start to decrease later in the month. Temporary relief at the pump should also come from extension of the multi-state waiver issued by the Environmental Protection Agency, which will allow states to sell reformulated gasoline without additives that reduce pollution during the summer.
Great Lakes and Central States
The Great Lakes and Central States region is seeing both increases and decreases at the pump. As Indiana (+7 cents) and Michigan (+6 cents) pay more for gas on the week, four states are selling cheaper gas: Ohio (-6 cents), Kentucky (-4 cents), Kansas (-3 cents) and Missouri (-3 cents). The volatility stems mostly from Hurricane Harvey’s impact on gasoline supply distribution and a 1 million bbl drop in the region’s gasoline supply. The EIA’s latest report shows Midwest gasoline inventories remain steady at 51 million bbl.
Compared to the rest of the country, West Coast states are seeing small price increases on the week: Arizona (+6 cents), Nevada (+5 cents), Alaska (+5 cents), Washington (+4 cents), California (+4 cents), Oregon (+2 cents) and Hawaii (+1 cents). All states, except Arizona, land on this week’s top 10 states with the most expensive gas. According to the EIA, gasoline inventory moderately increased (100,000 bbl) to bring the region’s overall supply levels to 26 million bbl.
All states saw gas prices increase on the week: Montana (+6 cents) and Utah (+4 cents), Wyoming (+2 cents), Colorado (+1 cent) and Idaho (+1 cents). On average, gas is selling for $2.63 in the Rockies.
Oil market dynamics
At the end of last week, the price per barrel of West Texas Intermediate settled at $47.48. On Monday morning, prices are still below $50/bbl.
Motorists can find current gas prices along their route with the free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad, and Android. The app can also be used to map a route, find discounts, book a hotel, and access AAA roadside assistance. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile.