Gas prices in the Triangle have risen only slightly since Hurricane Harvey slammed into the coast of Texas late Friday, but the uncertainty over the storm’s impact on refineries in the region is expected to drive prices higher.
Drivers in the Triangle will pay an average of $2.28 per gallon for regular unleaded on Monday, up less than a penny since Friday and less than three cents from a week ago, according AAA. The statewide average is $2.27 a gallon.
How much they’ll rise in the coming week as the affect of the storm lingers is not clear.
“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 AAA spokeswoman Jeanette Casselano. “Despite the country’s overall oil and gasoline inventories being at or above five-year highs, until there is clear picture of damage and an idea when refineries can return to full operational status, gas prices will continue to increase.”
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The Triangle receives most of its petroleum products from the Gulf Coast. AAA Carolinas spokeswoman Tiffany Wright said the region had ample supply of fuel before the storm approached Texas.
And Colonial Pipeline Co., whose pipelines carry most of that fuel to North Carolina, “continues to maintain operations,” spokeswoman Malesia Dunn said late Sunday. Colonial’s pipelines originate near Houston and serve terminals in Greensboro and Selma.
AAA said Friday that hurricanes typically have a limited impact on the supply of gasoline, as refineries return to full operation as soon as possible.
But it’s not clear yet how long the Texas refineries will be affected by Harvey. Refineries in Corpus Christi, near where the storm made landfall, closed in advance of the storm, while Houston area refineries remained open until Sunday, when flooding forced some to begin shutting down.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the storm knocked almost 15 percent of U.S. refinery capacity out of commission.
The uncertainty over refinery production roiled the energy markets. Gasoline futures surged to their highest in two years, increasing more than 5 percent on Monday, according to financial news site, The Street.