Energy Prices Surging As Tropical Storm Gordon Takes Aim At US Gulf Coast

Energy prices are surging this morning as Tropical Storm Gordon takes aim at the US Gulf Coast. There are plenty of other reasons for crude to rally today, lower Iranian exports, more chaos in Libya and predictions of shortages in Nigeria, not to mention some US oil platform evacuations, but today’s action seems to be more focused on the potential impacts to refined product supply with roughly 16% of total US refining capacity in the forecast cone of Gordon’s path. ULSD futures have already reached their highest levels since January 2015 in overnight trading.

While this storm is a serious threat, coming much to close for comfort to one of the largest clusters of refineries in the world, it is not expected to be a major hurricane as it makes landfall as either a tropical storm or a category 1 hurricane, unlike Harvey and Irma in 2017 which were both category 4 storms when they reached land.

In addition to the lower strength than what we saw a year ago, current forecasts show the center of the storm staying east of the critical refinery cluster along the Mississippi river from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, which is good news for refined product supplies as the west side of these storms gets significantly less storm surge due to their rotation. The further east the storm stays the better for oil production as well as it will impact fewer offshore platforms in the Gulf of Mexico as you can see in the maps below from the EIA. By this time tomorrow we should have a better feel for any supply disruptions which will likely be the difference in today’s gains going away, or being just the beginning of much higher September prices.

In other news, managed funds added to their net length (increase their bets on higher prices) across the board in petroleum contracts last week, not surprising given the strong bounce in prices we saw to end the month. Baker Hughes reported 2 more oil rigs were put to work last week after dropping by 9 the week prior.


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