Hurricane Ike appears to have spared refineries from major wind and water damage, though the federal government is preparing for an extended period of tight fuel supplies as widespread power outages prevent any quick restart.
Refineries and chemical plants located along the Houston Ship Channel are reporting only minimum damage following Hurricane Ike, according to a Harris County official. The status of refineries in other areas is unclear as the last of the storm leaves the region.
Early Saturday morning, the eye of the Category Two storm passed directly over the ship channel, giving assessments crews about 30 minutes of calm to survey the damage, said David Wade, industrial liaison for Harris County. The crews reported only small signs of damage including down power lines, Wade said. He received the last report about 4 a.m. CDT.
Less is known about the status of refineries in the Beaumont-Port Arthur area, near the Louisiana border. Local media have reported extensive flooding in Port Arthur, and refiners have yet to conduct full assessments as the last of the storm passes over the region.
Refiners are expected to see the worst impact from the hurricane, which largely bypassed the major offshore production area in the Gulf of Mexico. Refiners responsible for 19.5% of U.S. capacity shut down ahead of Ike, reducing gasoline supplies across the southeast. Average gasoline prices spiked 23.5 cents in South Carolina between Friday and Saturday, with most other southern states seeing increases of 18 cents or more.