Gasoline at U.S. Pumps Drops to Lowest for Season in Three Years

Retail gasoline prices in the U.S. dropped to the lowest for this season in three years after crude futures capped the biggest weekly drop in six months.

Regular, unleaded gasoline at the pump declined 3.7 cents, or 1 percent, to $3.608 a gallon, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said on its website yesterday. Prices fell in every region of the country except for the Rocky Mountain area, according to the EIA, the Energy Department’s statistical arm.

Retail gasoline prices have retreated for six straight weeks and are 33.1 cents a gallon below year-earlier levels. Oil, which accounts for about two-thirds of the cost of the motor-fuel, declined 4.7 percent last week, the biggest loss since the period ended Sept. 21.

Gasoline “probably has another 6 or 7 cents a gallon to fall in the short-term as the decline in crude prices last week flows through from refining operations,” James Williams, president of energy consulting firm WTRG Economics in London, Arkansas, said by telephone yesterday. “The drops should continue for several days to a week.”

West Texas Intermediate crude for May delivery climbed 66 cents, or 0.7 percent, to $93.36 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange yesterday, the first gain in four days. Prices were at $93.46 a barrel today.

Crude stockpiles in the U.S. increased 0.7 percent to 388.6 million barrels in the seven days ended March 29, the highest in more than 22 years, the EIA said April 3. They probably added another 1.5 million barrels, or 0.4 percent, last week, according to the median of eight analyst estimates before the agency’s next report tomorrow.

Refinery Maintenance

Gasoline supplies slipped 0.3 percent in the week ended March 29 to 220.7 million barrels, the EIA data showed. They probably slid another 1.8 million barrels, or 0.8 percent, to 218.9 million last week, according to the Bloomberg survey.

A monthlong maintenance turnaround at Exxon Mobil Corp.’s 200,700-barrel-a-day Chalmette refinery in Louisiana took about a week longer than expected and was scheduled to begin restoring production late last week, a person with direct knowledge of the work said April 3.

Motiva Enterprises LLC’s 600,000-barrel-a-day Port Arthur refinery in Texas, the largest in the U.S., will keep a crude unit shut for another week of repairs, two people familiar with operations there said April 3. The equipment was taken out of service in mid-February for what was originally estimated to be a 38-day turnaround.

Gasoline futures for May delivery gained 4.57 cents to settle at $2.9093 a gallon on the New York Mercantile Exchange yesterday. Prices rose to $2.9134 today.

Gulf Coast Slide

Retail gasoline prices fell the most yesterday on the U.S. Gulf Coast, where they dropped 4.6 cents to $3.434 a gallon. Gasoline only rose in the Rocky Mountain region, climbing 2.6 cents to $3.523 a gallon.

Suncor Energy Inc.’s 98,000-barrel-a-day Commerce City refinery in Colorado shut a crude unit for about a week of repairs on a tower, a person with direct knowledge of the work said March 21. The refinery reported unit startups on April 1, a notice to state regulators shows.

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