As most of the Texas energy complex appears to have ducked the harsh winds of Hurricane Rita, many refiners and consumers are breathing a sigh of relief.
Although the devastation of the latest major hurricane to hit the Gulf Coast is widespread along the coast near the Texas-Louisiana border, it could have been much worse. Original predictions that the storm could tag the Texas coast near the energy-rich center between Houston and Galveston had many prognosticators fearing the worse.
Instead, the storm took a northeasterly route and made landfall Saturday morning near Port Arthur, Texas, and Lake Charles, La. While still rich with energy infrastructure, less dense refining capacity combined with a weaker-than-feared storm (a Category 3 is still major, just not cataclysmic as the Category 5 storm many thought would make landfall) made for much less drama and damage than first feared.
The reaction of commodity traders provided a glimpse of how lucky many think Texas was. In a rare Sunday session at the NYMEX, which opened to allow traders to react to Rita news before the workweek began, crude was down over $1.50 a barrel to $62.65. Heating oil and gasoline were also trading lower, a sign traders believe the refining impact of Rita will be small, especially compared to its evil sister Katrina.All that said, there is still plenty of work to do and several concerns to address when oilmen return to work Monday morning.