Published: Wed, September 13, 2017
Markets | By Noel Gibbs

Oil mixed, Brent rises as Irma casts shadow over Harvey recovery

Oil mixed, Brent rises as Irma casts shadow over Harvey recovery

Focus was shifting to three other hurricanes that are now tearing through the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.

The US Energy Information Administration said on Thursday US weekly crude stocks increased 4.6 million barrels last week, topping analysts' forecast for a 4.0-million-barrel build in a Reuters poll.

Brent found some support from news that Saudi Arabia will cut oil supply allocations to its customers worldwide in October by 350,000 bbl/d.

Meanwhile, Brent oil for November delivery on the ICE Futures Exchange in London dipped 15 cents, or about 0.3%, to $54.05 a barrel.

US Gulf Coast facilities were slowly recovering from the devastating effects of Harvey, which hammered Louisiana and Texas nearly two weeks ago, shutting key infrastructure in the heart of the US oil and natural gas industry.

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It knocked out nearly a quarter of the country's huge refinery industry, cutting demand for crude oil refining lifeblood. Its predecessor, Harvey, shut a quarter of US refineries and 8% of USA oil production.

Crude-oil refinery inputs fell by 3.3 million barrels a day last week, to average 14.5 million barrels a day, while refineries operated at just 79.7% of capacity, the EIA said. "The impact of the forces of nature on USA oil production should not be overestimated-nor should their impact on demand be underestimated".

Analysts predict that it will likely take months to return to normal operations despite efforts which were put on by U.S Gulf drillers, refineries and fuel pipelines for restarting operations.

"Imports (of oil) to the U.S. Gulf Coast fell to levels not seen since the 1990s", ANZ bank said.

Traders said it would take weeks for the USA petroleum industry to return to full capacity, and that under the current conditions it was hard to identify fundamental market trends.

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But Irma is headed away from the heart of USA oil production.

Hurricane Irma hit the Dominican Republic and Haiti on Friday, heading for Cuba and the Bahamas.

Irma barreled into Caribbean islands overnight with wind speeds up to 185 miles per hour (295 kph) and was heading for Florida.

With storm Katia about to hit the Mexican Gulf coast, there are three major hurricanes now active in the region.

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