Energy Economy

Gas Prices Remain Low Even as Maintenance Slows Refineries

Paul Ausick

The price of gasoline on Monday morning was down less than one cent compared with last week’s national average pump price for a gallon of regular gasoline. Compared with the same day last year, the national average price of $2.284 is 54.2 cents a gallon higher.

The wide differential between last year’s price at this time and this year’s current price is due to reduced production from OPEC and some non-OPEC producers as they try to push up the price of crude. The price of crude is about $12.50 a barrel higher today than it was a year ago, and that is reflected in the pump price of gasoline.

Analysts at GasBuddy noted that historically a gallon of regular gas in the United States rises by an average of 59 cents a gallon between mid-February and Memorial Day.

Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy, said:

With refinery maintenance and turnarounds beginning across the country, we’ll likely see a drawdown on winter gasoline stocks, leading the national average to rise in the week ahead. Despite oil prices that remain range bound in the low to mid-$50’s per barrel, refinery status and the likely draw in inventories will win this week’s tug of war at the pump keeping upward pressure on gasoline prices. In addition, unexpected refinery outages could cause additional volatility or spikes in prices over the next two months due to the limited ability for other refiners to help offset any production losses while performing their planned maintenance.

Gas prices declined in 26 states last week, while they rose in 24. Leading decliners were Indiana (down 10 cents a gallon), Hawaii (3.8 cents) and Vermont (2.4 cents). Utah (up 7.7 cents a gallon) saw the largest increase, with Ohio (6.8 cents) and Michigan (5.2 cents) trailing behind.

No state showed an average of below $2.00 a gallon Monday morning. The five states with the lowest prices are South Carolina ($2.020 a gallon), Alabama ($2.060), Tennessee ($2.069), Mississippi ($2.074) and Oklahoma ($2.074). States posting the highest prices are Hawaii ($3.080 a gallon), California ($2.955), Washington ($2.752), Alaska ($2.689) and Nevada $2.569).

West Texas Intermediate crude oil for April delivery traded up about 0.4% Monday morning to $54.21 a barrel, after reaching a peak of $54.61 earlier. The contract closed at $53.99 on Friday.