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Refinery, pipeline shut downs cause fuel headaches in Texas, Oklahoma

Alicia Fraire / Red Dirt Report
Cars fill up their tanks at a the Circle K gas station at Western Ave and NW 23rd in Oklahoma City.
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OKLAHOMA CITY- When Stacey King of Arlington, Texas, went to fill up her car Thursday morning, she drove to four different gas stations before finding one that wasn’t completely out of fuel.

While waiting in a line of 40 or more cars long, she saw Texans struggle to fill up on the two remaining pumps, people screaming at each other and fights in the gas station lot.

“I heard last night that people should fill up their tanks and that gas may not be available soon,” said King. “There were tons of people in line. The attendants were directing people because there were only two pumps and only 1,400 gallons of gas left. They said there were no shipments of gas expected in the near future.”

Several refineries in Texas shut down before Hurricane Harvey even hit the southeast Texas coast over the weekend, but the widespread flooding from the storm has caused even more inland refineries to shut down operations.

According to The Dallas Morning News, more than one-fifth of the nations refining capacity is out of commission in light of the massive flooding in the Gulf Coast area.

In Oklahoma, concerns about fuel availability aren't as dire as in Texas, even in areas as far north as Dallas and Denton, but experts say fuel prices may increase throughout the state and the nation.

The gas shortages and rumors of no fuel in North Texas are creating a panic for residents in the area.

“Lots of people are panicking because they don’t think there is going to be enough gas available,” said King. “I saw lots of yelling and people are getting ugly. The attendants said they had to call the cops out a second time because of fights.”

Gas prices in Texas and even Oklahoma did spike since Harvey made landfall, but, according to AAA Texas, the average price at the pump in Texas Thursday was 12 cents higher than a week ago, with the average price hovering at $2.26 per gallon. U.S. gas prices averaged at $2.45 per gallon, which is 10 cents higher than a week ago.

 "We are actually going to release a fleet of vehicles from Oklahoma City and Tulsa to assist stranded motorists in Texas," said Mark Madeja, spokesperson for AAA Oklahoma. "It's going to be interesting in the short term, but there is plenty of fuel. It's just getting it from point A to point B. It's going to be a turbulent situation for the foreseeable future, so people should be prepared for gas spikes.'

Gas prices in Oklahoma vary, he said. For instance, gas prices in Tulsa are higher than gas prices in Oklahoma City.

“Tulsa jumped up almost overnight, but in Oklahoma City, you didn’t see that,” he said. “I would say that given the circumstances, it wouldn’t be out of the question for gas to hit $2.50 a gallon.”

Gas price increases could be on the horizon for Oklahoma drivers. (Alicia Fraire / Red Dirt Report) 

Oklahoma-based QuickTrip announced Thursday morning that it would stop selling gasoline at about half of its 135 stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area in anticipation of shortages due to the refinery and pipeline halts. Although not all QuickTrip stores in the DFW metro will have gasoline deliveries, the company said all parts of the metro would have gas available at select stores. 

“It’s better to have gas at some stores than no gas at all the stores,” said spokesman Mike Thornbrugh. “We have found that if you try to keep every store full, you’ll run out. There’s no way to tell right now how long the situation will last, but we will have a list on our website on which stores have gas.”

According to a recent survey sponsored by AAA Oklahoma, 66 percent of Oklahomans responding said they were traveling 50 miles or more from home over the upcoming long Labor Day weekend. However, 70 percent of those travelers said they were choosing to stay in-state. 

“That’s really the story within the story, the fact that there’s plenty to do right here in the Sooner State,” said Madeja.

“The recent devastation of Hurricane Harvey in south Texas and the Gulf has already caused gas prices to rise across the nation as well as here in Oklahoma, some six cents over the last week in the Sooner state. The storm, combined with Labor Day travel, is likely to cause gas prices to continue to rise with some estimates calling for between five to 15 additional cents at the pump.”

Over the next days and weeks, refineries will begin the process of coming back online, causing this spike to begin to subside as infrastructure repairs are made. Fortunately, gasoline inventory levels remain strong nationwide, helping to mitigate steep price increases. 

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Heide Brandes

Heide Brandes is an award-winning journalist and editor with more than 18 years of experience....

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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