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Monday, March 28, 2016

Lockport-area gas prices are up seven cents to $1.996 a gallon, according to AAA East Central’s weekly Fuel Gauge report. The average price of self-serve regular unleaded gasoline last week, based on reports from 22 stations in the Lockport area, is $1.901. This time last year, gasoline was $2.483 in Lockport. The national average is $2.039.

The national average price of gas climbed above $2 per gallon last Thursday for the first time in 2016, and average prices have increased for 21 consecutive days. Despite the recent increase, average gas prices remain 39 cents per gallon less than a year ago.

Many refineries are conducting seasonal maintenance, which has led to a decline in fuel production. In addition, refineries are preparing to produce summer-blend gasoline. This blend of gasoline is mandated by the EPA and is less prone to evaporate and contribute to air pollution in warmer temperatures. Retailers in many parts of the country are required to sell this summer-blend of gasoline by June 1, and leading up to this deadline, refineries and storage facilities also adjust their supply in order to comply with the regulation. During the months of March and April, refineries will begin the transition to producing and storing this blend of gasoline, and often “sell-off” or “draw-down” on their existing supply of gasoline in order to make room for this seasonal blend of gas. The combination of the above factors generally contributes to rising prices at the pump, leading into the busy summer driving season.

Varying expectations of future supply and demand have contributed to the global oil market’s overall volatility. As a result, the global price of crude oil continues to seesaw on news related to potential market influencers, and many traders are focused on the upcoming meeting between the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and non-OPEC producers scheduled for April 17. West Texas Intermediate crude oil opened the week trading a bit higher, following a week of fluctuating prices due to news of increasing crude oil inventories balanced against reports of falling rig counts in the United States. The NYMEX was closed on Friday in observance of Good Friday, and WTI closed out Thursday’s formal trading sesson on the NYMEX down 33 cents and settled at $39.46 per barrel.

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