Sept. 26 (UPI) -- U.S. retail gasoline prices may slide back into seasonal declines as the refinery sector moves toward pre-Hurricane Harvey status, market reports show.
A federal report shows one refinery in the Gulf Coast region is still shut down because of the impact from Harvey and nine are operating at a reduced rate. That's a slight improvement from the weekend and a sign the sector is slowly returning to normal. According to motor club AAA, most of the retail stations in Florida, which saw severe shortages in the wake of Hurricane Irma, are well supplied.
For Tuesday, AAA reported a national average retail price for regular unleaded gasoline at $2.57 per gallon, slightly less than for Monday and about 1.8 percent lower than one week ago.
"Gas prices are getting cheaper by the day," AAA spokesperson Jeanette Casselano said in a statement. "Pump prices may not be dropping as fast as motorists would like, but with the switchover to winter-blend gasoline, consumer demand beginning to slow and Gulf Coast refineries getting closer to normal operations, consumers can expect gas prices to continue to be less expensive through October."
By region, the south and southeast states continued to post lower gas prices as the refinery sector recovers. At $2.66 per gallon, retail prices in Florida are 1.6 percent lower than last week. Gas prices in Texas moved down in parallel for a state average Tuesday of $2.45 per gallon.
The Great Lakes region is usually the most volatile in the country and that market had to make adjustments in the wake of Harvey, though a weekly jump in gasoline inventories led to big declines in gas prices. Indiana and Michigan tied for the largest declines by price, though Michigan saw the largest decline in terms of percent to move below pre-Harvey levels.
An emailed market report from GasBuddy.com, however, said the price drop was so intense that the Great Lakes market may be primed for a "reset" over the next few days.
For the West Coast, the most expensive market in the Lower 48, the increase in gasoline inventories translated to lower gas prices, though most states are still above $3 per gallon.
Crude oil prices have been on the rise more or less since Harvey made landfall. The price for Brent crude oil, the global benchmark, is up 10 percent since the start of the month. That would usually trigger more work from energy companies, though exploration and production activity in the United States remains suppressed, which is actually supporting even higher crude oil prices because it shows the market is starting to balance out. An over-supplied market last year pushed crude oil prices to historic lows. Gas prices are 16 percent higher than they were on this date last year.