MARKET WATCHTropical Storm Wilma raises energy prices

Oct. 18, 2005
Energy prices escalated Oct. 17 as Tropical Storm Wilma became the 21st named storm in the current Atlantic hurricane season.

Sam Fletcher
Senior Writer

HOUSTON, Oct. 18 -- Energy prices escalated Oct. 17 as Tropical Storm Wilma became the 21st named storm in the current Atlantic hurricane season, tying the 1933 record for the largest number in a single season and exhausting this year's list of storm names.

The US Hurricane Center said the storm could strengthen into the 12th hurricane of the year, tying the 1969 record for the most in one season, and might threaten the US Gulf Coast by this weekend. Wilma was stalled early Oct. 18 over the warm waters of the Caribbean 245 miles south-southeast of Grand Cayman, having barely moved since the previous day. However, forecasters expect it to turn gradually to the west and northwest.

Current storm damage
Meanwhile, 2 drilling rigs and 225 offshore platforms are still without crews in the Gulf of Mexico after being evacuated in September ahead of Hurricane Rita. Production from the gulf continues to trickle back into the market with 996,291 b/d of crude and 5.5 bcfd of natural gas still shut in. That amounts respectively to 66.4% and 54.98% of the prestorm production in those waters. Cumulative gulf production lost since Aug. 26 now totals 60.7 million bbl of crude and 305.5 bcf of natural gas.

The Louisiana Office of Conservation said the status of producing wells on land and in state waters in 38 parishes was virtually unchanged over the weekend (OGJ Online, Oct. 17, 2005). The Department of Energy said the amount of Gulf Coast refining capacity shut down by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita still stood at 1.6 million b/d, unchanged from Oct. 14.

DOE said 16 gas processing plants in Louisiana and Texas, with capacities equal to 100 MMcfd or more, were still inactive Oct. 17. It cited a report from Dynegy Inc. that the Venice, La., gas-processing plant had suffered flooding and extensive damage and is unable to process or dehydrate gas. As a result, the Venice gathering system is exploring modifications to pipeline configurations to allow for deliveries to the Trunkline Gas Co. system near the intersection of the 26-in. mainline and the 24-in. loop line at South Timbalier Block 151.

The Association of Oil Pipelines said all onshore interstate oil pipelines have resumed normal operation, although some systems continue to experience reduced availability of products to transport.

Energy prices
The November contract for benchmark US sweet, light crudes jumped by $1.73 to $64.36/bbl Oct. 17 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while the December position advanced by $1.62 to $63.61/bbl. On the US spot market, West Texas Intermediate at Cushing, Okla., was up by $1.73 to $64.37/bbl. Gasoline for November delivery escalated by 6.67¢ to $1.82/gal on NYMEX. Heating oil for the same month increased by 3.33¢ to $1.98/gal. The November natural gas contract shot up by 66.8¢ to $13.89/MMbtu

In London, the December contract for North Sea Brent crude rose by $1.09 to $60.57/bbl on the International Petroleum Exchange. Gas oil for November gained $19 to $601.75/tonne.

The average price for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' basket of 11 benchmark crudes increased by 90¢ to $55.24/bbl on Oct. 17.

Contact Sam Fletcher at [email protected].