And you thought gas prices were bad after Katrina… Depending on where Rita goes ashore, CNN is predicting that gas prices could go as high as $5/gallon next week, making you long for the good old days (two weeks ago) when gas was going for just $3/gallon. Why so much trouble? When Katrina hit, we lost a combined refining capacity of about 3.3 million barrels a day, which represents almost 20 percent of U.S. refining capacity. While much of the damage has been repaired, four of the fifteen affected refineries are still more or less out of commission. Thus, we’re still short about 900, 000 barrels per day. And if Rita barrels (no pun intended) into the Houston-Galveston area and/or the Port Arthur-Beaumont region near the Texas-Louisiana border, we could be looking at an additional 3 million barrel per day shortfall. Check out the following map if you’d like a better idea of exactly what’s in store.
The text is a bit tough to read on this version, but the yellow triangles are major refineries (> 75, 000 barrels/day), whereas the blue circles are minor refineries (< 75, 000 barrels/day).
While this may end up being little more than fear-mongering hype, Rita looks to be a pretty bad storm, and you might want to think about filling your tank going into the weekend.
Update: It’s starting to look like Rita will turn north sooner than expected, which would take it even closer to the heart of refinery alley.