WASHINGTON, D.C. --- The Energy Department reported that as of Sept. 23, more than 850,000 barrels per day of crude oil production from the  Gulf of Mexico and about 1.7 million barrels per day of refinery capacity were still shut down. In addition, about 27 million barrels of crude oil production from the Gulf of Mexico have been shut in because of hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

There have been retail gasoline shortages in North Carolina and Georgia.

As of September 19, about 46 million barrels of refined product have not been produced because of refineries being shut down or running at reduced levels for lack of crude oil, according to the department's Energy Information Administration (EIA).

"Because of port closures and pipeline outages, crude oil flows through the petroleum system were curtailed over the last few weeks and it may take a while longer to get flows moving again at normal rates throughout the entire system," the EIA said. 

Refineries have been slow to return to operation because of power outages and the time required to bring refineries back online after a shutdown. With refineries unable to fill pipelines that move product into the Midwest and East Coast, inventories have been dropping, and spot shortages, mainly of gasoline, are occurring, even with increasing imports arriving to help fill the gap, the EIA said.

As a result, gasoline inventories have declined to record low levels. At 179 million barrels, total motor gasoline inventories stand at the lowest level since 1967, based on monthly EIA data.

"Continuing reports of spot shortages of gasoline at some retail outlets where supplies have been most disrupted can be expected over the next several weeks," the EIA said. "Distillate inventories and supplies are in better shape, but tight nonetheless. They remain within the lower part of the EIA-defined 'normal' range for this time of year."