Gas prices in Wichita and around the country are going up as soon-to-be Hurricane Isaac prepares to make landfall near New Orleans.
Employees changed the signage at the QuikTrip at 37th & Rock Road just after ten Monday night. A gallon of unleaded is now $3.75 at most stations around the city. Premium is $3.99 a gallon.
Isaac will come ashore Tuesday into Wednesday along the Louisiana coast on the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. While following much the same path as the 2005 storm, Isaac is expected to be less powerful and far less destructive than Katrina. New Orleans says it's ready after more than $14 billion in levee and flood prevention improvements.
Oil fell Monday because Gulf Coast refineries won't be using as much in the next few days and damage to key oil and gas operations in the Gulf of Mexico seemed less likely as the storm's winds aren't expected to be as strong as some had feared.
Refineries should also escape damage. But refinery owners often shut down operations in advance of a storm. These facilities consume enormous amounts of electric power and generate steam to cook crude oil into gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and heating oil. If a refinery loses power suddenly, operators can't properly clear the partially cooked oil out of pipes, and re-starting the refinery can take several days or even weeks.
If refineries instead conduct what is known as an orderly shutdown, they can re-start as soon as the power supply is assured again. The Gulf refineries will likely stay off line for about three days.
About 1 million barrels per day of refining capacity is expected to be shut down, roughly half of the refining capacity in the potential path of the storm. The U.S. consumes about 19 million barrels of oil products per day.
There is also renewed speculation that the Obama administration will release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the nation's emergency stockpile of oil. The White House has said a release is one option for combatting higher oil prices. Benchmark U.S. oil has risen 22 percent since late June. Brent crude, which is used to price international blends that many U.S. refineries use to make gasoline, is up 23 percent in the same period.
Gasoline prices have risen in recent weeks because of the higher oil prices and refinery problems in the Midwest and West Coast. At $3.75, the national average is at its highest level since May 9 and it is up about 42 cents from the low reached on July 2.
*Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.