As South and Southeast states recover from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, motorists in 45 U.S. states are paying less for a gallon of gas on the week. At $2.62, today’s national gas price average is the cheapest in 14 days and five cents less than last week.
“Gas prices are dropping as the situation with refineries, pipelines and gasoline deliveries is positively progressing,” said Jeanette Casselano, AAA spokesperson. “It looks like pump prices will continue on this declining trend into the coming weeks as the regions affected by Irma and Harvey resume normal operations.”
Midwest motorists are benefiting the most with a few states – Indiana, Michigan and Ohio – seeing gas prices plummet by the double-digits inside of seven days. Meanwhile, some states in the West Coast and Rockies are seeing gas prices increase.
As gas prices drop for the majority of the country, so does the nation’s gasoline inventory. The latest Energy Information Administration (EIA) report identifies the latest draw of 8.4 million bbl as the highest on record, much of which can be attributed to motorist fueling up in the droves in anticipation of Hurricane Irma.
“Next week’s EIA report may bring another record-demand level as a continued result of Irma, but demand is expected to sharply decline across the country by the end of September,” added Casselano.
Florida Gas Supply & Gulf Coast Refineries
Last week, at $2.73, Florida’s saw its highest gas prices since December 2014. The spike came as many gas stations faced outages as power was down and roads impassable. The good news is that in the last seven days, the state’s average has shaved off one cent. In addition, ports are open and receiving steady streams of tanker shipments as state officials continue to work with gasoline trucker and shippers to ensure timely delivery of product to retail stations. Reports indicate that the gas station gasoline outage situation is improving as stations receive deliveries.
Similarly, positive progress is being seen in the Gulf Coast. According to the Department of Energy, a total of six Gulf Coast refineries are operating at reduced rates, which is one more refinery than last week. These six facilities make-up 13 percent of refining capacity in the U.S. Five refineries continue to operate at reduced rates and three remain shut down, which represents a total of 10 percent of U.S. refining capacity.
It will likely be a few more weeks before the regions affected by Irma and Harvey are back to normal operations. Not a threat to make landfall, Hurricane Jose, a Category 1, is well off the shore of North Carolina. Currently, Hurricane Maria is closing in on the Leeward Islands and is expected to affect the British and U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico by mid-week, according to the National Hurricane Center. Hurricane season ends on November 30.
South and Southeast
All states are selling cheaper gasoline with Oklahoma (-5 cents), South Carolina (-4 cents), Texas (-4 cents) and Georgia (-4 cents) leading the region with the biggest declines in pump prices on the week. At $2.31, Oklahoma has the lowest price of the 10 states while at $2.71, Florida is the most expensive, which is expected given the tightened gasoline supply caused by both Irma and Harvey.
As recovery in Texas moves forward, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last week granted a waiver extension for federal reformulated gasoline requirements in the state. The waiver will allow stocks of “winter blend” gasoline to be used to meet demand. The EPA also waived requirements for Texas Low Emissions Diesel through October 1.
The Gulf Coast saw one of the largest gasoline inventory drops on the week – 3.7 million bbl, according to EIA data. Massive-buying in Florida and other southeast states ahead of Irma’s lent to the multi-million bbl draw. Overall, refinery utilization was down, which is understandable as refineries in the region are operating at about 61 percent of capacity, as reported by OPIS.
Mid-Atlantic and Northeast
With a 12-cent state gas price average decrease, Delaware had the largest price drop in the region, followed by Maryland (-8 cents), New Jersey (-5 cents), Virginia (-5 cents) and Maine (-4 cents). All states are selling cheaper gas on the week while Pennsylvania ($2.87), Connecticut ($2.85), the District of Columbia ($2.85) and New York ($2.81) land on this week’s top 10 states with the most expensive gas.
At 5.7 million bbl, the region saw the country’s largest draw in gasoline supplies, according to an EIA report. It can be assumed that a portion of the draw accounts for supply shipments directed to the south in response to tightened supplies caused by Irma and Harvey.
Midwest and Central
The Midwest and Central states are seeing some of the largest declines in gas prices: Indiana (-18 cents), Michigan (-15 cent), Ohio (-11 cents), Illinois (-10 cents), Kentucky (-10 cents), Missouri (-7 cents) and Wisconsin (-7 cents). The region is also selling some of the cheapest gas in the country: Missouri ($2.34), Ohio ($2.37), Kansas ($2.40) and Indiana ($2.41). Parts of the region saw gas prices spike alongside Harvey hitting the Gulf Coast. However, with pipelines resuming operations as of late, motorists are seeing gas prices tumble. As we move into fall and gasoline demand drops-off, gas prices could reach the lowest of 2017.
Gas prices are volatile and increasing for half of the West Coast states: Alaska (+4 cents), Arizona (+1 cent) and Hawaii (+1 cent). On the week Oregon, Nevada and California’s gas price fell by one cent, while Washington remained stable. Unlike regions east of the Mississippi, the West Coast region saw an increase in gasoline inventory by a moderate 750,000 bbl.
Similar to the West Coast, gas prices in the Rockies are unstable. Motorists Colorado (-4 cents), Utah (-1 cent) and Wyoming (-1 cent) are paying less at the pump, while Idaho gas prices remained stable on the week and Montana (+4 cents) is paying more than seven days ago.
Oil market dynamics
Last week, the price per barrel of WTI closed at $49.89. U.S. crude prices remained below $50 per barrel as of Monday morning. Since Hurricanes Harvey and Irma hit the U.S., oil prices have not spiked like gasoline prices did despite a quarter of the refining capacity in the country being offline due to Harvey.
As refineries work to reach pre-storm capacity levels, oil inventories may decline in the coming weeks as refineries turn to storage tanks to meet demand needs. Given that the fall driving season tends to be less demand-driven, any declines in inventories are likely to keep pace with demand.
As expected, EIA’s report last week showed a drop in crude input flows to 14.4 million b/d, illustrating that refineries affected by Harvey are taking in less oil as they resume normal operations. Any indication that the U.S. supply appears to be tightening could lead oil prices to rise. Moreover, falling by seven rigs last week, Baker Hughes reports that active oil rigs in the U.S. sit at 749.
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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