Harvey, downgraded to a tropical storm and losing steam as it moved inland, killed more than 40 people and brought record flooding that shut at least 4.4 million barrels per day (bpd) of refining capacity, roughly a quarter of the USA industry. This shut-down refining accounts for 31.7 percent of the region's refining capacity and 16.6 percent of total USA refining capacity.
Almost 30% of the nation's refining capacity along the Gulf Coast has been shut or reduced operations due to flood waters associated with the storm.
Several refineries in Texas shut down in advance of the storm and other refineries, including some in the northeast, are shipping supplies to areas of the country where supplies are low. Fuel prices were expected to keep rising as refining capacity remains down and pipelines run short.
"Typically, gas prices do start to decline mid to late September as the summer driving demand dies down, and gas stations switch to the cheaper winter blend, but that may change this year because of the shutdown of refineries at this time of year that we don't typically see", she said. The sale was the first in a series of planned draw-downs through 2025 totaling nearly 190 million barrels, or 27 percent of the reserve. North Carolina prices jumped 11 cents overnight and are up 27 cents over the last week.
When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, the US exported just 800,000 barrels a day of mostly refined products.
This development is said to be frustrating for OPEC countries now restricting oil supplies in an attempt to push prices higher.
The national average price for a gallon of gas was $2.52 on Friday, up 17 cents from a week ago and 20 cents from a month prior. "Here in Oklahoma, we're holding steady and actually up only 2.5 cents over last week".
The refinery outages from Hurricane Harvey have left a very large, if temporary, void in the refined product supply, a space set to be filled by refiners located far from the flood ravaged coast of Texas.
The ExxonMobil Baytown refinery, the second largest refinery, has had some flooding and also could be down for up to four weeks.
Corpus Christi area refineries were already down ahead of the storm, and Houston area refineries on August 27 were being taken down because of flooding.
Since Harvey made landfall a week ago, the storm, which has since weakened to a tropical depression, has crippled more than 20% of USA refining capacity, according to analysts.
Port closures in the region continue to spread as well, limiting the ability of refineries that remain open to access crude oil shipments.
"Refiners in Singapore, South Korea and India are capable of producing US gasoline specifications and will be able to meet increased demand in the USA", said Ehsan Ul-Haq, a London-based director of crude oil and refined products at Resource Economist Ltd.