HOUSTON - The punch of Hurricane Gustav appeared to fall softly Monday on the vast energy complex along the U.S. Gulf Coast, alleviating fears of a fuel shortage and potentially delivering a break to businesses and consumers.
As Gustav passed over land and winds began to subside, oil market traders began to focus not on storm damage, but on their growing anxiety over the state of the global economy.
Even with 110 mph winds raking refineries that line the coast and rushing over the deep-water rigs off the shores of Texas and Louisiana, the price for a barrel of oil plummeted by more than $4 a barrel to just above $111 because Gustav was weaker than expected.
The average price for a gallon of gasoline slipped less than a cent overnight after beginning to rise for the first time in more than a month on the storm’s approach, according to the auto club AAA.
Still, the storm’s impact on production platforms, drilling rigs and other equipment likely won’t be fully known for another day or so.
Assuming no damage, it typically takes two to four days to restart a refinery, depending on its size. It can take a day or two to get offshore oil and natural gas production going again. In 2005, hurricanes Katrina and Rita knocked out the region’s offshore energy infrastructure for several weeks.
Transocean Inc., the world’s largest offshore drilling contractor, said Monday afternoon it appeared its three moored, semisubmersible rigs in the Gulf remained anchored in position during the storm.
Transocean said eight other rigs that used thrusters to move out of the storm’s path also were safe and would be moving back to their drilling locations as soon as Monday evening.