The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Gas Prices Rising Again Due to Regional Refinery Issues

January 31, 2013

Gas prices are on the rise again even though they are still seven cents less than the average price a year ago, according to AAA’s latest fuel prices report. The company said the retail price of gas has been relatively stable, increasing fewer than six cents during between Jan. 1 and Jan. 28. In a report AAA released on Thursday, Jan. 31, the company said the national average price for the month of January was $3.32 per gallon, which was the second highest price on record for that month. The average national price of a gallon of gasoline increased 13 cents, which was the first monthly increase since August 2012, according to AAA.

Looking ahead, AAA expects then national average price of gasoline to rise further in February due to seasonal refinery changes but at a slower pace than during the previous two years.

According to AAA, although geopolitical issues drove the price of oil up last year, this year regional refinery issues are causing price increases. The price of West Texas Intermediate crude oil settled at $96.44 per barrel on Jan. 28.

Affected refineries include ExxonMobil’s and Phillips 66’s refineries in Illinois; the HollyFrontier refinery in New Mexico; Western Refining in El Paso, Texas; the Chevron refinery in El Segundo, Calif.; and the Cherry Point refinery in Washington state. Also, Hess announced it is permanently closing its Port Reading, N.J. refinery by the end of February due to poor margins, and that refinery has a production capacity of 70,000 barrels per day. That amount of production accounts for 7.5% of production in the northeast, and its loss will squeeze the already tight supplies in that region.

Drivers in the northeast are still paying the highest prices in the continental U.S. as production and supplies have yet to recover from Hurricane Sandy, according to AAA. Drivers in N.Y. paid an average of $3.74 during January, and the average in Connecticut was $3.69 per gallon.

During last week, the average gasoline price went up in every state in the U.S. save for Montana (and the District of Columbia). Prices in the central U.S. have gone up the most last week as the price of crude oil used by regional refiners has gone up. For example, prices in nine states saw increases of 10 cents or more. They include Illinois, with a 10-cent increase; Idaho, up 11 cents; North Dakota, also up 11 cents; Colorado, up 13 cents; Utah, up 14 cents; Oklahoma, up 15 cents; Iowa and Minnesota, both up 15 cents; and Nebraska, up 17 cents per gallon.

For the month of January, the states that saw the largest price increases included Minnesota, up 33 cents; Indiana, up 24 cents; Michigan, up 23 cents; and Illinois, up 23 cents.

Updated 4:44 p.m., 1/31/2013, with information from new report.

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