Oil prepares for Hurricane Sandy

October 26, 2012 04:39 AM
Sandy, Cant You See?

Sandy can’t you see, that you will cause misery? The refiners made a start but now you could tear them apart.  Oh please, go out to sea!

Hurricane Sandy is far from a dandy, threatening to be one of the worst storms in history. Because it will blow away ghosts and goblins it is being called the “Frankenstorm.” It will also blow energy demand. Already oil prices were under pressure as downgrade rumors swirled and we took another hit after Apple had lousy earnings. Who knew iPads ran on oil? Really, they blamed rising commodity costs and increasing competition.

Yet oil also took a hit on rumors. Some thought that Fitch was going to downgrade the U.S. and some thought every country in Europe despite the fact that the market has already done that. Fitch of course has warned that a U.S. downgrade could be coming if the U.S. did not get their fiscal house in order. Yet if Fitch did decide to do this right before an election in the U.S., they would be widely criticized as trying to influence the outcome of an election, which might mar the less than sterling reputation of credit rating agencies.

Overnight Spanish unemployment climbed to a fresh record in the third quarter as a deepening recession left one in four workers jobless, adding pressure to Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to seek a second European bailout. Spain's unemployment, the second highest in the European Union after Greece, rose to 25.02% from 24.6% in the previous quarter, the National Statistics Institute said in Madrid today. That is the highest since at least 1976, the year after dictator Francisco Franco’s death led Spain to democracy. The euro-area average is 11.4%. Also Israel and Hamas agreed to a cease fire reducing some of the geo-political risk.

That brings us back to Hurricane Sandy. Already Sandy is impacting prices, production and imports. Oil prices are weaker as demand for oil should fall. East Coast refineries may shut down. Yet products are looking to gain ground as imports will drop and supplies of product, unlike crude, are very tight. Gasoline, which just had the largest drop since 1986, may rebound as Sandy disrupts the world. Bloomberg reported that the Buckeye Terminal has halted operations. They say the terminal will resume operations once Hurricane Sandy has passed and the facility is deemed safe for work. A skeleton crew will be staying at the facility through the storm. Buckeye Partners LP has suspended operations at the BORCO terminal in the Bahamas, Kevin Goodwin, a company spokesman, said. The terminal can hold 21.6 million barrels of crude, fuel oil and other refined products.

As of now a tropical storm watch has been issued for parts of North Carolina as Hurricane Sandy approaches the U.S. East Coast, the National Hurricane Center said in an advisory issued Friday. The Category 1 storm was centered about 485 miles (780 kilometers) south-southeast of Charleston, South Carolina, with maximum sustained winds of around 80 miles per hour at 5 a.m. EDT (0900 GMT). The storm was moving toward the northwest at about 13 mph, the advisory said. "A little weakening is forecast today...but Sandy is expected to remain a hurricane for the next couple of days," the advisory said. Dow Jones reports that as Hurricane Sandy begins to make its way up the East Coast, Duke Energy is making preparations for possible effects from the storm in Florida and the Carolinas. Employees are monitoring the potential path of the storm and implementing early phases of the company's comprehensive storm plan.

Customers of Progress Energy Florida and Progress Energy Carolinas (Duke Energy subsidiaries) should pay particular attention to the storm, and review their own safety plans, as well. Current forecasts keep the storm offshore as it passes Florida and the Carolinas over the weekend, but there is potential for high wind and rain in areas along the coast that could result in outages in those areas. Given the size of the storm, portions of central North Carolina and South Carolina could also see effects from the outer bands of the storm, including portions of Duke Energy Carolinas service area. Duke Energy will continue to monitor and prepare for the storm and will deploy company crews as needed to restore service as safely and quickly as possible after the storm passes.

Northeast refineries and imports into the East Coast as what may be a “Perfect Storm” could create havoc unlike anything we have seen for 100 years! The summer like hurricane storm crashing into a winter storm around Halloween is about as scary as any Halloween story I have ever heard. Bloomberg News reminds us that East Coast, or Padd 1, gasoline supplies were 9.1% below year-earlier levels last week, Energy Department data show. The East- Coast imported 471,000 barrels a day of gasoline last week, according to department data. Refiners in the region, which includes New York Harbor, the delivery point for Nymex futures, can process 1.29 million barrels a day, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

About the Author

Phil Flynn is a senior energy analyst at The PRICE Futures Group and a Fox Business Network contributor. Phil is one of the world's leading market analysts, providing individual investors, professional traders, and institutions with up-to-the-minute investment and risk management insight into global petroleum, gasoline, and energy markets.