* Monthly oil refinery outage surveys to begin 2011
* EIA wants outage info three or four months in advance
By Tom Doggett
WASHINGTON, Jan 8 (Reuters) - The U.S. Energy Department says it will start surveying oil companies next year on a monthly basis to better track the effects shutdowns of their refineries would have on petroleum supplies and fuel prices.
The department's Energy Information Administration said its current method of relying on news reports and other commercially available data to follow when refineries are offline is inadequate and the agency wants information about refinery outages much sooner.
"EIA needs to know about planned outages at least three or four months prior to their occurrence in order to assess any significant supply or price impacts and to provide information to the Secretary of Energy in a timely fashion," the agency said in a note posted on its website on Friday.
"Missing a planned outage until shortly before it is scheduled to happen can lead to erroneous conclusions about its impacts in the larger context of the petroleum market," the EIA said.
Outages at refineries that produce gasoline, diesel fuel and heating oil often move prices in the oil market. At the moment, the EIA issues a report every four or five months estimating how much U.S. oil refining capacity will be temporarily shut.
The agency said it will work with the industry to determine how best to collect the information for the monthly report and what it may cost oil companies to comply with the department's survey, which will be mandatory and not voluntary.
"The intent is to begin collection in 2011," the EIA said.
The agency said it will publish in the Federal Register later this year a proposed refinery outage survey form, providing companies with another opportunity to comment. (Reporting by Tom Doggett; Editing by Christian Wiessner)