Dec. 18 (UPI) -- Fuel prices fell another 5 cents last week, to $2.37 per gallon, and the price drops that have been going on for about 10 weeks straight may continue at least to the end of the year.
"With gasoline production on the high side -- 10 million barrels per day -- amid low demand, motorists can expect gas prices to continue declining through yearend," AAA said in a Monday report, adding the decline for the month is 26 cents per gallon.
A separate report from Gas Buddy, which also tracks fuel prices, said the average has declined for the 10th straight week. The latest weekly drop was 5.7 cents to $2.36 per gallon, it said.
GasBuddy analyst Patrick de Haan noted that prices have fallen to their lowest level since prior to Hurricane Harvey in 2017, tracking weakness in crude oil futures markets.
The biggest weekly declines were in the Great Lakes and Central Region, with Ohio leading price drops in the nation as gasoline prices fell 12 cents per gallon on average. At $1.96 per gallon, Missouri has the cheapest gasoline across the country, the AAA said.
Refinery utilization rose in that region from a week before by 4 percent to 98 percent, while gasoline stocks show a year-over-year surplus of 2.5 million barrels per day .
In the South and Southeast, many states have gasoline "price averages that are pennies away from falling below $2 per gallon."
Gasoline stocks in the South and Southeast built by 3 million barrels on the week, eliminating a draw from a week earlier.
"Since demand is low this time of year, it is not uncommon to see stocks build during December," the AAA said.
In the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, West Virginia led declines with a 6 cents per gallon drop. Stocks fell by 1.9 million barrels as refinery utilization in the region fell from 93 percent to 85 percent.
In the Rockies, the largest declines were in Idaho and Montana, where fuel costs to drivers declined by 9 cents per gallon. An increase in refinery utilization rates to 92 percent from 86 percent helped.
The region does have relatively higher prices compared with most other parts of the United States. Prices range from a low of $2.41 per gallon in Colorado to $2.75 per gallon in Wyoming.
On the West Coast, which has the highest prices in the nation, fuel prices "are getting cheaper with all state averages moving lower on the week," led by declines of about 7 cents per gallon in Washington.
Prices in the region are higher due in part to stricter pollution control regulations, with California leading such efforts.
West Coast gasoline stocks increased by approximately 600,000 barrels but they are 2.4 million barrels lower than at this time last year, the AAA said.
Fuel sold in service stations across most of the United States is a combination of either RBOB, or reformulate gasoline blendstock for oxygenate blending, or CBOB, conventional blendstock for oxygenate blending. Some states use RBOB and others CBOB. California mandates a special formula named CARBOB.
These products are all naphtha obtained from crude oil. The naphtha is later mixed with about 10 percent ethanol, which is an oxygenate. Ethanol adds oxygen to the fuel, so that the ending emission is cleaner.
RBOB gasoline futures for January delivery were quoted early Tuesday in the CME exchange at $1.38 per gallon, down from $1.43 per gallon a week earlier.
Ethanol, which is alcohol derived from corn, was quoted early Tuesday at $1.26 per gallon for January delivery, This compares with $1.23 per gallon a week earlier.