Hurricane Irene could end up closing refineries on the East Coast, which are concentrated in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, in anticipation for the storm's arrival, analysts say.
Irene has been putting a beating down on the Bahamas for about two days. Structural damages, blocked roads and power outages have been reported in the southeastern islands.
Refineries are already starting to turn off equipment and tie things down, the Washington Post reports.
Even if the storm eventually misses them, they can't take chances, Ben Brockwell at the Oil Price Information Service, which monitors fuel shipments around the country, tells the Post.
Refineries are extensive concrete and steel complexes that turn oil into gasoline, diesel and other kinds of fuels.
The main buildings are designed to withstand hurricane-force winds and earthquakes, but some of their pipes, cooling towers and power lines are susceptible to wind damage, according to the Post, which adds that the utilities are expecting widespread power outages from winds and downed trees.
It could take several days for a refinery to begin operating after a shutdown, with many needing almost a month to get back to full operation.
The Post also writes that gasoline futures rose nearly 2 percent Thursday.
There's the potential for certainly coastal flooding, potential for refinery outages, potential for shipping delays, things like that, Tom Bentz, an analyst at BNP Paribas Commodity Futures, tells the paper.
New Jersey has also issued a state of emergency ahead of what could be the worst hurricane to ever hit that state as well.
The storm is expected to bring heavy rain, and winds of up to 100 mph, when it reaches New Jersey on Saturday afternoon. The storm is expected to deliver at least 5 to 10 inches of rain and could cause major flooding, according to Bill Read, the director of the National Hurricane Center.
Refinery operators must decide some 72 hours before a hurricane hits whether to go into what is called cold shutdown, the Post reports.
Jeff Hazel, the senior director for refining technology at the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association, tells the Post that refiners are most concerned about losing power due to high winds. Refineries normally generate some power on site, but they almost all rely also on offsite power, the article states.