Refinery issues tug on gas prices

All but a few U.S. states still reporting gas below the $2 mark on average.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |   Feb. 2, 2016 at 5:47 AM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 2 (UPI) -- Refinery issues may be pulling the U.S. national average price for gas higher, though low crude oil prices are keeping the average below $2, AAA said.

Tuesday marks the 33rd straight day in which the national average retail price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline remained below $2 per gallon, with the $1.79 marking a slight decrease from the previous day.

With a late January snow storm closing down much of the eastern United States, and another system moving west from the Plains states, AAA said seasonal demand for gasoline remains low. That, in combination with lower crude oil prices, means less pain at the pump for most U.S. commuters.

"Retail averages are discounted by three cents per gallon on the week, 20 cents per gallon on the month and 26 cents per gallon on the year," the motor club said in a weekly retail market report.

As with the summer, when refinery issues pushed Midwest gas prices near $3 per gallon, AAA said unscheduled maintenance in California and again in the Midwest has skewed the national average higher. AAA said some refinery pressure in California is waning, though its $2.57 per gallon state average is by far the highest in the Lower 48.

PBF Energy Inc., meanwhile, said the winter storm in late January caused power outages at its refinery in Delaware City, Del.

"Personnel are working to return non-affected units to reduced operations," the company said in a statement.

Regional state averages are close to the national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded, though some central and mid U.S. states are reporting state average prices at around $1.60 per gallon. Missouri has the lowest price in the nation with $1.49 per gallon.

AAA said consumers should continue to enjoy considerable savings on fuel, barring any unexpected issues. Prices may move higher as spring approaches, however, as refiners start making the required shift to a summer blend of gasoline, which is more expensive to produce because of additional environmental safeguards.

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