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Gas price spikes possible in the Ohio Valley in wake of storm


The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING, W.Va.  — Shutdowns at Gulf Coast petroleum refineries due to devastation from Harvey could cause a spike in Upper Ohio Valley pump prices, according to the West Virginia Oil Marketers and Grocers Association.

Quaker City, Ohio resident Jason Beckett fills his vehicle’s fuel tank at the St. Clairsville Sheetz on Monday. Shutdowns at Gulf Coast gasoline refineries could cause pump prices to surge.
(Intelligencer photo by Casey Junkins)

That is unwelcome news for drivers who rushed to gasoline stations around the area Monday to fill their tanks before a major price increase.

“It’s already hard, with my car payment, rent and utilities. This is just one more thing to worry about,” Tifini McCausland of Martins Ferry said. “Any other expense just makes it that much harder.”

Oil Marketers and Grocers Association President Traci Nelson said the price of regular gasoline in West Virginia will likely increase by up to 15 cents per gallon because of refinery shutdowns in the Gulf. According to, prices in the Wheeling area already are about 16 cents per gallon higher than at this time last year.

“We don’t think it will last long because Labor Day brings the end of the summer driving season and demand will decrease,” Nelson said.

Jason Beckett of Quaker City, Ohio said he sympathizes with those receiving the brunt of Harvey’s impact along the Gulf Coast. Still, he hopes gasoline prices do not stay high for too long.

“It’s a concern, for sure. Right now, I can only afford to put in $20 worth,” Beckett said while filling his truck’s tank at the Sheetz near St. Clairsville.

“I average about 150 miles per day for work — sometimes 200,” he added. “Any gas price hike makes it tough.”

Although it has since been downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm, Harvey slammed into the Gulf Coast area during the weekend, drenching the city of Houston and the surrounding region with torrential rains. The resulting floods led Exxon to completely shut down its refinery at Baytown, Texas.

On Monday, the world’s largest publicly traded oil and natural gas company also curtailed operations at its refinery in Beaumont, Texas. As of late Monday, Exxon officials were running the Baton Rouge, La. refinery “as normal.”

“Exxon Mobil’s primary focus continues to be the safety of our employees, contractors and the communities in the affected areas. We are communicating with our employees and their families to ensure they remain safe,” Exxon officials said in a released statement Monday.

U.S. Department of Energy officials said that as of Monday, all six refineries in the Corpus Christi, Texas area were shut down and four in the Houston/Galveston area were in the process of shutting down. That’s a combined refining capacity of more than 2.1 million barrels per day, or nearly 12 percent of total U.S. refining capacity.

Due to the impact of Harvey, global oil giant Royal Dutch Shell shut down its refinery at Deer Park, Texas. Another major firm, BP, closed its U.S. headquarters in Houston, but said Monday its production and refinery operations continued. ConocoPhillips also closed its office and stopped some oil production in the Gulf region to Harvey.

Michael Tadeo, spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based American Petroleum Institute, said the industry is working to mitigate infrastructure problems and shutdowns.

“America’s vast energy infrastructure network is designed to sustain disruptive events like Hurricane Harvey, due to its geographic diversity and industry experience responding to similar storms over the years, such as Rita, Ike and Sandy,” he said.

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