Analysts: too early to assess Sandy's impact on fuel prices

Analysts said that it would be days, if not a week or two, before Hurricane Sandy's impact on fuel prices in the Eastern U.S. can be assessed.

Today, the average cost of a gallon of regular gasoline was up by only the smallest amounts overnight in some states, while others actually saw price declines.

In New York, for example, the average cost of a gallon of regular gasoline was up just 0.3 cents overnight, to $3.931. That was still 7.9 cents a gallon below the week-ago price.

Much will depend on how quickly refineries along the Delaware River can return to service.

One other critical facility -- Phillips 66's Bayway refinery in Linden, N.J. -- sustained a power failure and some flooding.

Bayway has the capacity to produce of 240,000 barrels of fuel a day. It was shut down Monday in advance of the storm's arrival.

Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service, said that residents in the path of the storm have done so little driving that the reduced demand may be more than the amount of fuel lost to temporary refining outages.

"At least 2 million barrels of gasoline demand was 'lost,'" Kloza said, "while production losses may only be around 1.7 million barrels."

Patrick DeHaan, senior energy analyst for GasBuddy.com, said: "The bigger story will be after Sandy moves out. If refineries can't make it back online in the next week, we could be looking at price increases."

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