Hurricane Harvey-induced pipeline and refinery shutdowns, higher demand during the Labor Day weekend and tightened supply in the Gulf region have caused gas prices to rise across the Washington, D.C. metro area, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.
“On one hand, when you see what’s going on in Houston, you can hardly refer to an increase in gas prices as ‘pain’ at the pump,” said John Townsend III, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s manager of public and government affairs. “On the other hand, the timing of the increase is unfortunate for all those planning one final road trip this summer, as motorists are expected to pay the highest Labor Day gas prices in two years.”
As of Wednesday night, the Department of Energy (DOE) reported that 10 Gulf Coast refineries remain shut down. Six refineries have started the process of assessing damage and restarting, which may take several days. Two refineries in the Gulf Coast region are operating at reduced rates. Refineries in Lake Charles, Louisiana could shut or reduce rates as Harvey moves east.
Meanwhile, DOE released 500,000 barrels of oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve for the Phillips 66 refinery in Westlake, La. Other requests to tap into the reserve will be considered, DOE said.
The price spike should last until mid- to late September, when impacts are better understood and oil infrastructure are back on line. “AAA does not expect refineries to be offline for months, as early reports indicate minimal to no significant damage to Corpus Christi and Houston refineries, but the coming days will offer more insight,” Townsend said.
Average gas prices across the D.C. area, as of Friday morning:
- Washington, D.C.: $2.65, up three cents from Thursday and up eight cents in the past week.
- Washington, D.C. metro area: $2.40 Thursday, up five cents from Thursday and up 10 cents in the past week.
- Maryland: $2.43, up seven cents from Thursday and up 14 cents in the past week.
- Virginia: $2.24, up five cents from Thursday and up 10 cents in the past week.
- National gas average: $2.45, up five cents from Thursday and up 10 cents in the past week.