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Summer blend drives up gas prices

Gasoline prices are rising in Oklahoma and nationwide as the country’s refiners are preparing to make the more expensive, but cleaner-burning summer blend fuels required by state and federal laws.
by Adam Wilmoth Modified: February 28, 2014 at 11:00 am •  Published: February 27, 2014

The price of gasoline in Oklahoma City has jumped 23 cents over the past month and is likely to continue higher as the country’s refineries prepare to begin producing cleaner-burning and more expensive summer-blend fuels.

“The anxiety over the switch has commenced,” AAA Oklahoma spokesman Chuck Mai said. “As far as I can determine, that’s the reason for the price rise, along with oil inching upward.”

The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in the metro area reached nearly $3.28 Thursday, up 3.5 cents over the past week and almost 23 cents over the past month, according to GasBuddy.com. The price is still 28 cents lower than it was one year ago.

Nationwide, the average price hit $3.43 Thursday, up a nickel on the week and 16 cents over the past month.

GasBuddy analyst Gregg Laskoski agreed that most of the reason for the price hike is because refineries are preparing for the summer fuels.

“Across most of the country, the vast majority of winter-blend gasoline has been depleted,” he said. “Refineries are looking to shut down operations to take care of maintenance. Most are already into the normal turnaround schedule.”

Biannual cycle

During the winter months, the country’s refiners produce a less-expensive blend of gasoline. By late spring, they must complete the process of converting refineries to producing the cleaner-burning summer fuels.

If all goes well, the process usually takes about two weeks. But refiners increasingly are starting early.

“Typically, they have to gear down the refinery, clean it out and ramp back up again to produce summer grade fuels,” Mai said.

“But it’s like anything else where once you get into it, oftentimes they find other problem, as well, which delays the process. It’s like when you take your car in for a burned-out light bulb and discover you need a new transmission.”

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by Adam Wilmoth
Energy Editor
Adam Wilmoth returned to The Oklahoman as energy editor in 2012 after working for four years in public relations. He previously spent seven years as a business reporter at The Oklahoman, including five years covering the state's energy sector....
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