The Wake of Hurricane Rita: Rita

Mike Shedlock examines The Wake of Hurricane Rita — and how, while deaths were thankfully very low, there was still more damage done than you might think.

WHEN HURRICANE RITA hit the Texas coastline at Beaumont/Port Arthur, as a Category 3 hurricane, everyone breathed a sigh of relief. In terms of lives lost, it certainly would be hard to fare better than we did. However, the Pollyanna viewpoint that there was minimal damage is just plain wrong. At sea, Rita blasted her way through the Gulf of Mexico offshore oilfields as a Category 5 tempest doing mammoth damage to numerous rigs that will affect oil and natural gas production for quite some time. In addition, some coastal refineries were heavily damaged, and that comes on top of refineries already crippled by Katrina.

According to the Department of Energy, damage to some of the refineries in Port Arthur, Texas, and Lake Charles, La., and the lack of electrical power supply to others is preventing their immediate return to service. Combined with the 5% of refinery capacity near the New Orleans area that was still out following Hurricane Katrina, as much as 15% of U.S. refinery capacity could be out for at least another couple of weeks.

As of Wednesday, Sept. 28, there are four refineries still shut down in the New Orleans area following Hurricane Katrina, seven shut down in the Port Arthur and Lake Charles areas, and three shut down or attempting to restart in the Houston/Texas City/Galveston refining area, amounting to a total of over 3.5 million barrels per day that is currently offline. This accounts for over 1.5 million barrels per day of gasoline, over 800,000 barrels per day of distillate fuel, and over 400,000 barrels per day of jet fuel that is not being produced as long as these refineries remain shut down.

A daily status report of hurricane impacts on the U.S. oil and natural gas markets can be found here.

The Wake of Hurricane Katrina: DOE Report

The following highlights are from a Department of Energy PDF as of Sept. 28, 2005 (3:00 p.m. EDT):

· 945,506 customers are without electric power in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi. This includes new customer outages due to Hurricane Rita as well as outages remaining from Hurricane Katrina

· As a result of damage from Hurricane Katrina and precautionary actions in advance of Hurricane Rita, shut-in oil production in the Gulf is currently at 1,511,715 barrels of oil per day…Shut-in gas production is at 8.027 billion cubic feet per day

· The shut-in gas production is equivalent to 80.27% of the normal daily gas production in the Gulf, which is currently approximately 10 billion cubic feet per day

· Evacuations are equivalent to 72.4% of 819 manned platforms and 47.76% of 134 rigs currently operating in the Gulf

· There are reports that as many as 18 GOM rigs and 40 platforms may be missing, damaged, and/or detached from their moorings.

Russ Winter did a nice summary about Rita for The Wall Street Examiner in an article entitled “Postscript on the Rita ‘Dodged Bullet.'” Following is a list of damage estimates compiled by Mr. Winter:

Citgo, Lake Charles (324,300): three weeks
Total, Port Arthur (233,500): a month
Valero, Port Arthur (255,000): 2-4 weeks
COP, Westlake, (239,400): 2 weeks
Motiva, Port Arthur (285,000), wind damage, no power, no date given
Exxon’s Beaumont plant (348,500) appeared to have no significant damage and was awaiting power.

GOM shut-ins account for about 28% of total U.S. oil output and 14% of total U.S. natural gas output.

The Wake of Hurricane Katrina: Houston Chronicle Report

The Houston Chronicle is reporting a “Close Call on Natural Gas for Winter”:

“Winter is coming, and most of the natural gas wells in the Gulf of Mexico remain shut in. Industry officials say gas supplies will be adequate to heat Americans’ homes through the colder months.

“But at what cost?

“‘Based on everything we see right now, coming off of Katrina and Rita, we should be fine this winter,’ Natural Gas Supply Association chairman Joseph Blount said Tuesday.

“Consumers, however, won’t be happy.

“Even before Rita pushed natural gas prices to new highs, Guy Caruso, head of the Energy Information Administration, was estimating home heating bills this winter could jump as much as 70% in some parts of the Midwest.

“Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are hurriedly responding to the latest energy crunch sparked by the hurricane duo by writing a new energy bill.

“House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-Texas) today will push a provision to encourage construction of a natural gas pipeline across Alaska and bring new supplies to the lower 48 states. Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (R-Calif.) will sponsor a measure that would allow states to authorize oil and natural gas drilling off their coasts.

“Neither provision will help consumers this winter…

“To date, hurricanes Katrina and Rita have deprived the markets of nearly 5% of the annual gas production that would have otherwise come from the Gulf.

“Although natural gas is used year-round to generate electricity, demand is greatest in the winter months.

“To meet that seasonal demand, the industry must build inventories before the severe cold hits…

“As of Sept. 16, 2.8 trillion cubic feet of gas was in storage, the Energy Information Administration reported.

“That’s up about 3% from the five-year average, although down about 3% from the same time last year.

“Industrial customers with the ability to switch from use of natural gas to heating oil have largely done so…

“Residential customers typically don’t have the luxury of switching. Their demand depends on the weather.

“Forecasters are predicting a warmer-than-normal winter, although cooler than last year. Overall, the natural gas association estimates residential gas demand will be up more than 7% from last year.”

On Wednesday, we looked at rising “Credit Card Delinquencies.” Here is a small snip:

“The American Bankers Association reported Wednesday that the percentage of credit card accounts 30 or more days past due climbed to an all-time high of 4.81% in the April-to-June period. It could grow in the months ahead, experts said.”

Those figures were pre-Katrina and pre-Rita. Not only do we have continued high prices for gasoline, we have record high prices for natural gas as well. If the experts are correct and Midwest heating bills rise 70% this winter, there is sure going to be a lot more economic stress than we see right now.

Mish, is this a weather-related outlier or are consumers finally ready to toss in the towel? Good question, but I think that sticky gas prices; rising interest rates (11 consecutive rate hikes and more threatened); falling real wages; two hurricanes, with possibly more to come; rising foreclosures; rising delinquencies; and looking ahead to even 30% hikes in winter heating bills, let alone the 70% that is projected are likely to be the brick that broke the consumers’ back. The recession of 2006 is coming up.

Mike Shedlock ~ “Mish”
September 29, 2005