* Monthly oil refinery outage surveys to begin 2011
* EIA wants outage info three or four months in advance
By Tom Doggett
WASHINGTON, Jan 8 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
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
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)