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Gas Shortages Begin As Harvey Shutters Southeast Texas Refineries

Mose Buchele

Tropical Storm Harvey has brought the mighty Texas oil refining industry to its knees, at least temporarily, and Texas drivers are just starting to feel the pain.

Pulling up at a gas station in North Austin on Monday, Dave Kennedy was greeted by a small handwritten note that said simply “No Gas.”

“This is my second station," he said. "[The] Chevron down the street also has no gas."

Kennedy wanted to fill up early in the week, because he thinks supplies will only get tighter thanks to  refinery shutdowns on the Gulf Coast after Tropical Storm Harvey, which has brought record rains to the Houston area and much of Southeast Texas.

Somewhere around 15 percent of U.S. oil refining capacity was put offline by the hurricane-turned-tropical-storm. Some of those were in Corpus Christi, where Austin receives much of its gasoline supply by way of pipeline.

“The five refineries in Corpus Christi shut down, that’s going to impact supplies into the Austin, Dallas, Waco and Corpus market,” said Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates.

He says about half of refining in Houston was also shut down, with the rest processing only the bare minimum of fuel, and that will have an impact on southeastern states.

So how long will shortages be a problem? Lipow says, in Corpus, it will be at least a couple weeks before refineries get back to normal. But, really, it all depends on the weather, he says.

While shortages last, you can expect higher prices and more of those “no gas” signs. But, Lipow says people shouldn’t panic, he expects balance will return to gasoline markets.

And back in North Austin, Dave Kennedy wasn’t letting the inconvenience get him down.

“If this is our only problem in Austin, we’re doing really well versus the people in Houston,” he said.

With that, he drove off to find another place to fill up his truck.

Mose Buchele focuses on energy and environmental reporting at KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @mosebuchele.
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