Hurricane Harvey prompts gas prices' highest jump since Katrina

Hurricane Harvey prompts gas prices' highest jump since Katrina

CHAMPAIGN — Local gas prices could remain higher for some time, with Hurricane Harvey knocking some refineries offline and Hurricane Irma potentially reaching Florida early next week.

When Harvey made landfall in Texas on Aug. 25, Champaign gas prices were at $2.18 a gallon, according to price tracking service GasBuddy.

Four days later, prices had jumped 21 cents to $2.39 a gallon, where they've been near since. As of Monday, the average price in Champaign was $2.41 a gallon.

"It looks like prices are rising today in Champaign," said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy. "But after the hike today, I wouldn't expect any further increases, pending the path of Irma."

After Harvey hit Texas, refinery capacity was reduced, leading to a 24-cent weekly increase in the price of gas nationally. This was the largest weekly increase since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when the national average increased 49 cents in a week, according to GasBuddy.

"Every state has seen average gas prices rise, Texas saw shortages at hundreds of stations — it's been one of the most challenging weeks faced in years," DeHaan said. "Until Texas can recover from Harvey, gasoline prices will likely continue to remain elevated. The situation is beginning to look up, with many refineries either back online or in the process, and gasoline production is ramping back up."

After Harvey, the U.S. Department of Energy released half a million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

"The SPR release was helpful, but only slightly," DeHaan said. "It likely did little to stem higher prices, but did more to help supply in the affected area."

With Irma expected to be at least a Category 4 hurricane near Florida by Sunday, price relief is not expected soon.

"While it may be weeks or longer before all refineries are back online, we now turn our attention to Hurricane Irma," DeHaan said. "Much remains in the air, but the situation promises to be challenging if Irma threatens the U.S. mainland."

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