Gasoline at U.S. pumps dropped for the second week, tracking a slide of more than $4 a barrel in oil prices last month as oil refiners on the Gulf Coast restored output following Hurricane Isaac.
The national average for regular gasoline fell 2.2 cents to $3.804 a gallon from a week ago, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said in a survey posted on its website yesterday. Prices were up 11 percent from $3.433 a year earlier.
Retail gasoline began sliding Sept. 24 after 11 weeks of consecutive gains that boosted prices to a record high for the season. Oil in New York tumbled $4.28 a barrel last month and settled below $90 on Sept. 26 for the first time in eight weeks. Crude accounts for about 66 percent of the costs of the motor fuel, according to the Energy Department.
“Oil prices are weaker than they were a month or two ago,” James Williams, president of WTRG Economics, an energy-research firm in London, Arkansas, said by telephone yesterday. “You’ve also got the return of refineries after Isaac in the last couple of weeks, and gasoline demand remains fairly weak.”
Chevron Corp.’s Pascagoula refinery in Mississippi resumed normal operations after repairing equipment damaged during Hurricane Isaac, Sean Comey, a spokesman at the company’s headquarters in San Ramon, California, said by e-mail Sept. 27. The plant was running at reduced capacity as the storm headed for landfall near New Orleans in late August.
Gasoline inventories on the Gulf Coast, known as the Padd 3 region, jumped 1.66 million barrels, or 2.5 percent, to 67.2 million in the week ended Sept. 21, Energy Department data showed. That was the highest level in four weeks.
Oil for November delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange was little changed at $92.49 a barrel in electronic trading today. Prices settled at $89.98 on Sept. 26 as the government reported lower oil demand and on speculation that the European debt crisis would reduce consumption.
Crude stockpiles probably increased 1.5 million barrels to 366.7 million last week, according to the median of six analyst estimates before an Energy Department report tomorrow. They dropped 2.45 million barrels in the week ended Sept. 21, the agency’s data showed.
Gasoline demand for the four weeks ended Sept. 21 was down 1 percent from a year earlier at 8.82 million barrels a day, according to the Energy Department.
Supplies of the motor fuel slipped 481,000 barrels to 195.8 million that week, the smallest decline since July, the Energy Department said. They probably fell another 375,000 barrels last week, according to the Bloomberg survey.
Gasoline for November delivery on the Nymex was little changed at $2.92 a gallon today.
Retail prices dropped the most on the Gulf Coast, declining 4.5 cents to $3.555 a gallon. The West Coast is the only region where prices gained, increasing by 1.6 cents to $4.081 a gallon, the energy agency’s report showed.
“West Coast refineries aren’t running very well,” David Hackett, the president of independent fuel consultant Stillwater Associates in Irvine, California, said by telephone yesterday.
Spot gasoline in California advanced to a record against Nymex futures yesterday after Chevron said it shut an oil pipeline that delivers crude to Bay Area refiners and Exxon Mobil Corp.’s Torrance refinery lost power.
The Energy Department conducts a telephone survey of 800 retail gasoline outlets across the U.S. to post weekly prices.