Two major crude oil refineries in New Jersey have closed as Hurricane Sandy approaches, but it is still unclear how the storm will affect gasoline prices throughout the country.
There are several factors involved that could affect gasoline prices, according to Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy.com.
While refinery shutdowns often create at least localized price spikes because of reduced supply, Sandy also has reduced gasoline demand by shutting in New York, Washington, Atlantic City and several other of the country’s largest cities.
The bigger risk, DeHaan said, is potential damage from flooding.
“When demand comes back, when schools are open, when NYC is essentially again open for business, will refineries be back online to provide for the demand of motorists? If they aren’t it could mean an impact,” DeHaan wrote on his blog.
GasBuddy’s Gregg Laskoski and told me on Friday that Sandy likely will not have wide-scale affects on gasoline prices.
“That could be a factor if it hits the mid-Atlantic region,” Laskoski said. “A lot of those refineries will probably shut down for safety reasons as the storm approaches. There could be a fairly tight supply within the next 72 hours in parts of the Atlantic, but I don’t think this is going to be something to have a long-term impact on gasoline prices.”
AAA Oklahoma spokesman Chuck Mai said Friday that Oklahoma prices likely will not be affected by the storm.
The threat would be to refineries on the East Coast,” Mai said. “That may impact pump prices in the New England States, but I don’t see that having any ramification here in our neck of the woods.
But there are signs that prices may already be heading back up in Oklahoma City.
Two of lowest-priced stations on Friday already have raised their rates. The Murphy USA station at 104th and South Western had the lowest price in the metro area on Friday at $2.94 a gallon. By Monday morning, the station was selling its fuel at $3.03. Just down the road, at North 12th Street and Santa Fe Avenue in Moore, the 7-Eleven had raised its price to $3.04, up from $2.99 on Friday.