Michael Barak, Joseph Bastardi and Alan Lammey
On August 24th, we warned on Forbes that Tropical Storm Isaac could pose a threat to energy markets and even rival Hurricane Katrina in its destructive power (Could Tropical Storm Isaac Turn Into Another Katrina?). While the computer models are still showing a substantial spread in solutions, it appears more likely that Isaac will make landfall somewhere near the Louisiana, Mississippi Gulf Coast. This track will provide the storm more time to intensify over the very warm water of the Gulf of Mexico.
The entire Gulf Coast from Lake Charles, LA to Panama City, FL should be aware of the latest forecast model guidance. The reason for this large spread is because the computer models are split between whether a trough will capture Isaac or not. As of 8AM Sunday morning, it appears Isaac will not be captured and as a result, a more westward track is most likely.
Hurricane Katrina made landfall near New Orleans on Aug 29, 2005. It is estimated that the total economic impact in Louisiana and Mississippi exceeded $110 billion, earning the title of the most expensive hurricane ever in US history.
As Katrina moved through the heart of the Gulf of Mexico offshore oil and natural gas production area, it negatively impacted nearly 20% of US oil production. Hurricane Katrina, followed by Hurricane Rita in September, destroyed 113 offshore oil and gas platforms and damaged 457 oil and gas pipelines. Oil, gasoline, and natural gas futures prices on the NYMEX soared as damage assessments were reported.
The hurricane damage inflicted by Katrina caused oil prices to increase from the mid-$60s per barrel to over $70/bbl and gasoline prices at the pump rocketed to near $5 a gallon in some areas of the US. The US government released oil from its stockpile in the Strategic Petroleum Reserves (SPR) to offset price rises. In the natural gas market, prices were trading in the $9 to $10/MMBtu range at the time, but spiked to over $15/MMBtu as the full extent of the damage became apparent.