Although it pales in comparison to the woes being endured by Texans who are beginning the recovery process in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, East Tennessee is feeling its own impact from the tropical storm in the form of higher gas prices.
As the remnants of what was once a Category 4 hurricane traversed the region late last week, packing rain and much cooler temperatures, pump prices began to surge due to the refinery and pipeline disruptions caused in Texas.
By Sunday afternoon, the typical price at gas stations around Oneida was about $2.50 per gallon, up considerably from just a few days earlier.
About one quarter of oil refining capacity in the Gulf Coast was taken offline by Hurricane Harvey — the equivalent of 2.5 million barrels of oil per day. Harvey also caused eight refineries in Texas to shut down, the largest being ExxonMobil’s Baytown operation, which has a capacity of 584,000 barrels a day.
“No doubt, Harvey has impacted operations and access to refineries in the Gulf Coast. However, a clear understanding of overall damage at the refineries is unknown,” said Jeanette Casselano, a spokesperson for the AAA auto club. “Despite the country’s overall oil and gas inventories being at or above five-year highs, until there is a clear picture of damage and an idea when refineries can return to full operational status, gas prices will continue to increase.”
The average price for a gallon of regular gasoline in Tennessee was $2.53 Sunday, up from $2.16 one week earlier.
While the cost of gasoline was expected to continue to rise through this week, experts said over the weekend that the increase should not get much worse, due in part to a decision by the U.S. Energy Department’s decision to release 500,000 barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to be delivered to a Louisiana refinery.
Additionally, refinery employees are returning to work as power is restored through areas affected by the hurricane, at which point prices should begin to drop, AAA has said.