Oil prices softened on Tuesday as Hurricane Irma's dampening effect on demand offset refinery restarts in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. International benchmark Brent crude LCOc1 fell by 35 cents to $53.49 per barrel by 0847 GMT from the previous close. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude CLc1 was down 30 cents at $47.77 a barrel.
While the largest US refinery, Motiva Port Arthur, and a number of others were restarting more than two weeks after Hurricane Harvey ripped through the US Gulf coast, the impact from Irma was less supportive of oil prices. Irma slammed into Florida on Sunday, leaving more than 7.4 million homes and businesses without power, but has since been downgraded to a tropical storm.
"If the Harvey impact was potentially and possibly short-term bullish for oil prices the same cannot be said about Irma," PVM analyst Tamas Varga said in a note. "There is no refinery capacity in the region therefore the main concern lies in the hit of oil demand." Goldman Sachs warned that demand could fall by 900,000 barrels per day (bpd) in September and 300,000 bpd in October due to the hurricanes.
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