Attacks on Saudi Arabian Oil Facilities Could Cause Pump Prices to Jump

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VIRGINIA BEACH, VA (September 16, 2019) - Currently, gas prices in Virginia rank 9th in the top ten least expensive pump prices in the US. The average price for gas in the Commonwealth is $2.29, which is 11 cents less than last month and 33 cents cheaper than last week. In Hampton Roads, prices are even lower at $2.25, a 36-cent reduction from last year.  Unfortunately, motorists may be looking at increasing pump prices in the coming days and weeks. Over the weekend, Saudi Arabia experienced drone attacks on two major oil facilities – including the world’s largest, Abqaiq. The attacks have taken 5.7 million (crude) barrels per day off the market, accounting for about 6% of the global supply.

 

Prior to the attacks, global crude oil supply was very healthy, in fact sitting on a global glut of stocks. Regardless, initial market reaction to the attacks spiked crude oil prices.  At the start of the work week, crude oil (West Texas Intermediate, WTI) is trading for $5/bbl more than on Friday’s closing, up to $61/bbl – a price point for crude not seen since May.

 

“Local pump prices could start to increase this week, with prices ending up as much as a quarter per gallon more throughout this month,” said Georjeane Blumling, spokesperson for AAA Tidewater Virginia. “Whether this is a short or long-term trend will be determined by the price of crude oil prices and how quickly the facilities in Saudi Arabia can recover and get back online.”

 

Damage to the facilities is still being accessed, but there is no word if it will be days, weeks or even months before infrastructure is repaired. To ease concerns, President Trump said he has authorized the release of crude from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Other Saudi-oil-consuming countries also have emergency reserves to help back-fill the global loss, if needed. Notably, the U.S. currently depends less on crude imports from Saudi Arabia. The latest Energy Information Administration (EIA) report showed that the U.S. imported the least amount of crude oil from Saudi this decade. In the first half of this year, on average the U.S. imported about 18,000 bbl compared to 35,600 bbl in the first half of 2017.

 

Overall, oil prices were mixed. Early in the week, oil prices fell after reports emerged that the Trump Administration is considering relaxing sanctions on Iran, which would put more oil into an already oversupplied market. However, the losses were tempered by EIA’s weekly report showing that total domestic crude inventories fell by 6.9 million bbl last week. They now sit at 416.1 million bbl, which is nearly 20 million bbl higher than were they were at this same time last year. For this week, crude prices will see increases due to increased tension in the Middle East – specifically stemming from the attacks in Saudi Arabia -  and could be bolstered by increased optimism that China and the U.S., the world’s two largest crude consumers, may be nearing a resolution to the trade war.

 

As part of North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA Tidewater Virginia provides its more than 330,000 members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding AAA Tidewater Virginia has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. For more information, visit AAA.com and follow us on Twitter at Twitter.com/AAATidewaterVA or Facebook at facebook.com/AAATidewaterVirginia.

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