Hold on to your gas cap, fuel nearly $4/gallon

Tanker driver Adam Ladeau pumps a gasoline tanker truck shipment at an Apex station on East Valley Parkway in 2017./Escondido Grapevine

With oil companies blaming refinery issues, gasoline prices have risen in the last month to the highest prices in nearly four years, according to various sources.

The average price of a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline in San Diego County rose this week to its highest amount since Aug. 5, 2015, increasing 3.6 cents to $3.868.

The average price has risen 22 consecutive days and 28 of the past 29, increasing 54.6 cents, including 1.8 cents on Monday, according to figures from the AAA and Oil Price Information Service. It is 23.4 cents more than one week ago, 55.2 cents higher than one month ago and 31.4 cents greater than one year ago.

The recent sharp increases are the result of a series of refinery issues that have reduced supply, according to Jeffrey Spring, the Automobile Club of Southern California’s corporate communications manager.

“Of the 10 California refineries that produce at least 75,000 barrels of fuel a day, six of them are experiencing unplanned issues, planned maintenance or both,” said Marie Montgomery of the Automobile Club of Southern California.

At $2.74, the national gas price average increased a nickel on the week and is eight cents more than last year at this time. And compared to one month ago, gas prices are 28 cents more expensive, according to AAA. As demand holds steady and inventories continue to tighten, motorists continue to see gas prices increase in every region.

“Gas prices are increasing across the country, but these changes vary by region,” said Jeanette Casselano, AAA spokesperson. “On the week, motorists in the West Coast, Rockies, Great Lakes and Central regions are seeing some of the largest weekly increases while prices mostly east of the Mississippi have made more moderate jumps.”

As overall refinery utilization stands at 86% compared to 93% last year at this time, unexpected and planned maintenance continues to be one of the leading factors in why gas prices have continued to trend more expensive.

Quick stats

  • The nation’s top 10 largest weekly increases are: California (+18 cents), Arizona (+15 cents), Alaska (+14 cents), Oregon (+11 cents), Washington (+11 cents), Montana (+10 cents), Nevada (+9 cents), North Carolina (+9 cents), West Virginia (+9 cents) and Ohio (+9 cents).
  • The nation’s top 10 least expensive markets are: Mississippi ($2.44), Alabama ($2.44), Arkansas ($2.44), Louisiana ($2.45), South Carolina ($2.47), Missouri ($2.47), Texas ($2.48), Utah ($2.49), Virginia ($2.51) and Oklahoma ($2.51).

West Coast

Just three years ago, February 2016, gas prices dipped below $2 a gallon at this East Valley Parkway, Escondido Apex station. Times have changed with prices nearly double that now and the Apex station long closed/Escondido Grapevine

Pump prices in the West Coast region are the highest in the nation, with all of the region’s states landing on the nation’s top 10 most expensive list. California ($3.80) and Hawaii ($3.51) are the most expensive markets. Washington ($3.27), Oregon ($3.16), Nevada ($3.07), Alaska ($3.03) and Arizona ($2.88) follow. All prices in the region have increased on the week, with California (+18 cents) and Arizona (+15 cents) seeing the largest increases in the region and country.

The Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) recent weekly report, for the week ending on March 29, showed that West Coast gasoline stocks fell slightly by 70,000 bbl from the previous week and now sit at 30.96 million bbl.

Ongoing planned and unplanned refinery maintenance throughout the region, including at Valero’s 149,000-b/d refinery in Benicia, CA, have reduced stock levels in the region amid reports of HollyFrontier’s 100,000-b/d Navajo Refinery in New Mexico contributing to gasoline shortages in Arizona.

Stocks are approximately 1.5 million bbl lower than this time last year and could fall further this week depending on refinery maintenance turnaround.

Oil market dynamics

Gas prices rising recently around Escondido/Escondido Grapevine

At the close of Friday’s formal trading session on the NYMEX, WTI increased 98 cents to settle at $63.08. Oil prices climbed last week following strong U.S. economic data that reduced fears of a drop in global crude demand later this year. Moreover, escalating military actions in Libya – a major global crude producer and exporter – supported crude price increases amid concerns that crude exports from the country could be affected by the tension.

Oil prices could climb even further this week as OPEC’s 1.2 million b/d production reduction agreement remains in place through June and the U.S. tightens its crude export sanctions against Iran and Venezuela.

In related news, EIA data revealed that total domestic crude inventories grew by 7.2 million bbl to 449.5 million bbl. Additionally, Baker Hughes Inc. reported that the U.S. gained 15 oilrigs last week, bringing the total to 831. When compared to last year at this time, there are 23 more rigs this year.

Motorists can find current gas prices along their route with the free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. The app can also be used to map a route, find discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile.

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