Gasoline at U.S. Pumps Surges Most in Five Months as Oil Gains

Gasoline at U.S. pumps jumped this week by the most since February, boosted by refinery upsets on the East Coast and crude prices above $100 a barrel in New York for the first time since May 2012.

Regular, unleaded gasoline at U.S. filling stations rose 14.7 cents from a week earlier to $3.639 a gallon, the highest since June 10 and 32 percent above the five-year seasonal average, the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the Energy Department’s statistical arm, said on its website yesterday. This week’s gain was the largest since Feb. 4.

West Texas Intermediate oil futures closed above $100 a barrel on July 3 for the first time in 14 months and traded as high $106.74 today as as the political crisis in Egypt intensified. The front-month contract has also gained as Canadian production cuts increased the U.S. Midwest’s demand for oil at Cushing, Oklahoma, WTI’s delivery point. Crude costs make up about 67 percent of the price of retail gasoline, according to the EIA.

“Political instability in Egypt and refinery issues in Texas, the Midwest and the U.S. and Canadian East Coast all are playing a part in recent price spikes,” Ryan Mossman, general manager of fuel services at Houston-based technology company FuelQuest Inc., said by e-mail. “We expect gas prices to continue to fluctuate through the end of the summer.”

WTI for August delivery climbed 37 cents to settle at $106.32 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange yesterday. Gasoline futures are also higher on Nymex, rising as much as 0.7 percent in today’s electronic trading to $3.1244 a barrel.

Largest Gain

“The spread between oil and retail gasoline prices is very high,” David Hackett, president of energy consulting firm Stillwater Associates in Irvine, California, said by telephone yesterday. “If crude stays high, retail is going to come up some more.”

Retail prices increased in all geographic regions of the U.S., with the Midwest seeing the largest gain, 23 cents to $3.639 a gallon. The smallest increase was in the Rocky Mountain region, where prices increased 0.1 cent to $3.611 a gallon.

Phillips 66’s Ponca City refinery in Oklahoma had a power failure last week that knocked out multiple units. The 187,000 barrel-a-day refinery was also performing planned maintenance, Rich Johnson, a spokesman at the company’s headquarters in Houston, said by e-mail July 10.

Unplanned Maintenance

Irving Oil Corp.’s Saint John refinery, which exports more than half of its fuel to the U.S. Northeast, shut a 25,000 barrel-a-day fluid catalytic cracker on July 6 for repairs, according to a report from IIR Energy. Phillips 66’s 238,000 barrel-a-day Bayway refinery also shut units for unplanned maintenance, two people familiar with the work said yesterday.

Valero Energy Corp.’s 310,000 barrel-a-day Port Arthur refinery in Texas took a fluid catalytic cracker out of service on July 9 and has no timetable for restarting the unit, Bill Day, a spokesman at the company’s headquarters in San Antonio, said by telephone yesterday.

The cheapest retail gasoline this week was on the Gulf Coast, where prices rose 14.8 cents to $3.443 a gallon. The most expensive was on the West Coast, where prices rose 5 cents to $3.925 a gallon.

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