“While we typically see a dip in gas prices prior to the early spring refinery maintenance season, the recent rise in crude oil prices continues to push gas prices higher,” said Tammy Arnette, Senior Public Affairs Specialist for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “The demand for gasoline so far this year is more than five percent higher than last year, also adding to the price increases.”
Despite the climb in prices, Virginia has the 12th lowest gas prices in the country. The unwelcome news for motorists is that there may not be much in the way of a break in pump prices between now and the start of refinery maintenance season in early spring.
Today’s national gas price average is $2.54, which is up a penny in the last week, up 11 cents in the last month and 23 cents higher than this time last year.
At the close of NYMEX trading Friday, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil settled at $63.37 per barrel, 90 cents lower than the previous week and closing above $63 each day this week.
Since mid-December, the price of crude has increased about $7 per barrel, a surprising development considering the commodity remained below $60 per barrel throughout 2017 despite OPEC’s production cuts. In its January oil report, OPEC states it held its crude production steady in December but that rivals, including the United States, Nigeria and Algeria, may be pumping out more barrels as the year continues.
Refinery issues along the Gulf Coast may play into gas prices in the coming days. The unseasonably cold weather, not typically found in the South, caused leaks, instrumentation problems and flares at refineries in Texas and Louisiana. In some cases, production units were shut down until the issues could be resolved. As is typically the case, any disruption in refining or production capacity will send prices at the pump upward.