Gas price continues to increase

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Gas prices have  jumped by  double-digits in more areas of the country — including  this region.

This  early price jump is due to several factors including a rise in crude oil prices and some refineries either closing permanently or shutting down for maintenance. Hess has shut down a refinery in New Jersey, while the former Sunoco refinery in Philadelphia is down for maintenance.

In Delaware, the price at the pump was hovering around $3.63 a gallon, up a couple of cents from a week earlier.

Analysts say gas prices are going up for two basic reasons: oil prices are rising, and refineries are shutting down.  When crude oil prices rise, gasoline prices follow.

Oil prices have jumped 10 percent over the last two months. The price of crude accounts for 68 percent of the cost of a gallon of gas, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Prices at the pump typically rise each year in late winter due to temporary refinery shutdowns for maintenance and refiners’ preparations to switch to summer blends of gasoline, which happens  in March.  Crude oil closed at $95.72 Friday, down 2 percent on the week.

“Gas prices continue to skyrocket well ahead of the seasonal upswing typically seen in late-February into March, jumping double-digits in most areas of the country,” said Jana L. Tidwell, public affairs specialist for AAA Mid-Atlantic.  “Double-digit weekly gains as a result of temporary refinery shut downs and increased crude oil prices, set the stage for motorists to see seasonal peak prices at the pump much sooner than expected.  Last year, the national average gas price peaked at $3.94 per gallon in early April, a price point that could be matched again this year.”

Price increases at the pump are  expected to continue through February and March.  Gas prices could close in on the $3.75 to $4  per gallon averages, the range that represents the season’s peaks in both 2011 and 2012, according to Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service (OPIS) and AAA gas price partner.  Beyond this seasonal peak, average prices for the whole year are expected to be lower.

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