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Brent, WTI Make Gains as US Braces for Hurricane

Brent, WTI Make Gains as US Braces for HurricaneBrent, WTI Make Gains as US Braces for Hurricane

Oil prices rose on Friday as the US petroleum industry braced for Hurricane Harvey, which may become the biggest storm to hit the US mainland in more than a decade.

Harvey became a category 2 storm as it crossed the Gulf of Mexico with winds of 169 kilometers per hour, 355 km off Corpus Christi, Texas, the National Hurricane Center said, CNBC reported.

US light crude, also known as West Texas Intermediate or WTI, was up 40 cents at $47.83 a barrel. Brent crude was 45 cents higher at $52.49.

The hurricane is forecast to make landfall late Friday or early Saturday between Corpus Christi and Houston, both important oil refining centers.

Energy companies have pulled workers from offshore oil platforms and halted onshore drilling in south Texas. Just under 10% of offshore US Gulf of Mexico crude output capacity and nearly 15% of natural gas production had been halted by midday on Thursday, government data showed.

“Damage and flooding to refineries and shale fields, disrupted production in the Gulf of Mexico and infrastructure damage are unlikely to be bearish for WTI,” said Jeffrey Halley, market analyst at brokerage OANDA.

US gasoline prices have risen almost 10% since Wednesday to a high of $1.74 a gallon, their highest since April as refiners shut down in preparation to the storm.

The Port of Corpus Christi, Texas, was closed to vessel traffic, a spokeswoman for the city’s Port Authority said. Oil refineries in the city run by Citgo Petroleum, Valero Energy Corp and Flint Hills Resources also began shutting down.

Beyond the storm’s potential impact on the oil industry, crude remains in ample supply globally despite efforts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to hold back production to prop up prices.

OPEC, together with non-OPEC producers including Russia, has pledged to cut output by 1.8 million barrels per day this year and during the first quarter of 2018. But not all producers have kept to their pledges and supplies remain high.

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