Sandy Raises oil prices

Oil prices go up on Sandy’s impact, will gasoline follow?

IMAGE: Gas pump
  By Pamela Sampson        
Oil prices rose Wednesday after Superstorm Sandy shut down 70 percent of the East Coast refineries in the U.S. Will gasoline prices follow?

BANGKOK — Oil prices rose Wednesday after a fierce superstorm that caused havoc across the northeastern U.S. and was threatening to inflict more damage inland.

Concerns about oil supplies pushed benchmark crude for December delivery up 18 cents at midday Bangkok time to $85.86 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 14 cents to finish at $85.68 a barrel in New York.

Gasoline pump prices, which had been declining before the storm, were expected to keep slipping after the storm on lower demand, but wholesale futures prices rose Wednesday 3 cents to $2.645 per gallon. The national average for a gallon of regular fell by about a penny Tuesday, to $3.53 — more than 11 cents lower than a week ago.

Brent crude, used to price many international varieties of crude, fell 9 cents to $108.99 per barrel.

A hurricane that evolved into a winter superstorm, Sandy cut power to more than 8 million homes, shut down 70 percent of East Coast oil refineries and inflicted worse-than-expected damage in the New York metropolitan area. That area produces about 10 percent of U.S. economic output.

Sandy came ashore Monday evening in New Jersey, dumped heavy rain inland in Pennsylvania on Tuesday and was expected to turn toward New York state and Canada overnight.

The storm will end up causing about $20 billion in property damages and $10 billion to $30 billion more in lost business, according to IHS Global Insight, a forecasting firm.

Widespread power outages and transportation disruptions, and hazardous driving conditions road would likely reduce demand for commodities like gasoline. But analysts said crude imports likely will be reduced until East Coast ports reopen.

“So even if refineries were able to get up and running soon, there’s a good chance we won’t have the feedstock to keep them going,” Carl Larry of Oil Outlooks and Opinions.

In other energy futures trading in New York:

— Wholesale gasoline rose 3 cents to $2.645 per gallon.

— Natural gas rose 1.8 cents to $3.709 per 1,000 cubic feet.

— Heating oil rose 0.2 cents to $3.0712 per gallon.

The Nymex was closed Tuesday because of the storm, but electronic trading continued. Normal trading is expected to resume Wednesday.