U.S. crude oil prices rebounded from nine-month lows Tuesday as drillers in the Gulf of Mexico moved to evacuate workers from key installations as Hurricane Ian accelerates its path towards the west Florida coast.
The broader Gulf region, which accounts for around 15% of U.S. crude output and 5% of its natural gas production, has been spared from serious storm concerns so far this year amid one of the quietest hurricane seasons in decades.
That said, with Hurricane Ian -- now considered a Category 3 story with maximum windspeeds of 125 miles per hour -- heading towards the central Gulf and the city of Tampa, drillers are now taking extra precautions.
BP plc (BPAQF) and Chevron (CVX) - Get Free Report said late Monday that they have begun removing all personnel from a total of four platforms in the Gulf of Mexico ahead of Hurricane Ian's advance, a move that could disrupt the production of around 500,000 barrels of oil per day.
WTI futures for November delivery, which are tightly linked to U.S. gasoline prices, were marked 93 cents higher on the session Tuesday and changing hands at $77.55 per barrel in overnight trading.
Brent crude contracts for the same month, the global price benchmark, were up $1.17 to $85.23 per barrel amid a pullback in the U.S. dollar.
U.S. gasoline prices, in fact, are edging modestly higher this week thanks in part to disruptions in refining capacity linked to maintenance and safety issues. The AAA puts the average per gallon pump price as $3.747 per gallon, a 2 cent increase from yesterday and a 7 cent increase from the same period last week.
Gasbuddy's head of petroleum analysis Patrick De Haan said in a blogpost Monday that "some refiners could see limited disruption" from Ian's path into the Gulf, and that the consumer advocacy website has "activated its Fuel Availability Tracker for motorists in Florida, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina."
"Hopefully, disruptions will be very limited due to Ian, but there remain many factors driving prices both up and down across the country,” he added.