If you’ve noticed higher gas prices this week, blame Tropical Storm Harvey. The storm took down a huge chuck of U.S. refining capacity and caused temporary shifts in the flow of gasoline around the world, according to CBS News. Gas prices in the U.S. climbed two cents a gallon on Wednesday and have risen a total of seven cents in the past week, to a national average of $2.42 per gallon.
Prices could keep rising also, as it will be days or even weeks before the energy sector in the southeast Texas Gulf Coast is back to normal operations. The region accounts for about three percent of the U.S. economy and is a crucial export market for oil and chemicals.
More than one-fifth of U.S. refining capacity has been closed since Harvey made landfall on August 25, which is weighing on supplies and driving up prices. Analysts at GasBuddy predict that prices will top out around $2.50 or $2.55 a gallon, an increase of up to 20 cents since Harvey hit.The good news though- the increase is expected to be temporary until supplies can be built up again within a couple weeks.
It could take longer though if refineries suffered damage from the storm. Exxon, Shell and other companies have already said that some of their storage tanks and other facilities near Houston were damaged by the torrential rains and flooding. Most of the reports seem to indicate relatively minor damage, but still it could be days before crews can assess matters and make repairs.
Additionally, a major pipeline supplying the East Coast with gasoline is shut down – partly because with refineries closed, there is nothing to ship, but also because of damage in at least three areas. Another pipeline that carries crude from the big Permian Basin field in Texas to Houston-area refineries is also closed.