Monday, May 20, 2013

Gas prices approach record highs

By ADAM STRUNK, The Lawrence Journal-World

Let the grumbling at the pumps commence.

Just in time for Memorial Day weekend, gas prices have jumped by more than 50 cents the past two weeks in Kansas to $3.91 a gallon. Gas in Lawrence was seen at $3.89 a gallon as of Saturday.

Chief Oil Analyst for Tom Kloza said a “perfect storm” of events has caused the large price spike in the Midwest, about a 16 percent price increase in Kansas since May 1.

“This isn’t your normal run-of-the-mill gas spike,” he said. “It’s not crude- or demand-related. It’s purely on refinery operations, but it’s nothing collusive.”

Kloza broke down the anatomy of the spike.

He said that while crude oil production in the U.S. has reached its highest level since 1992, the amount processed this year dropped to its lowest levels since 1990, caused by higher-than-normal maintenance levels and the retooling of many refineries to more effectively process Canadian crude oil.

Then came recent unexpected problems at refineries in Illinois, Wyoming, Indiana and the HollyFrontier oil refinery in El Dorado, further driving down production.

“All of that coming in a three-week span created some panic and fear,” he said. “Nothing will drive up prices like something like that.”

Ask Minnesotans who are now paying $4.28 a gallon. Prices have breached the $4 mark in Iowa, Nebraska and North Dakota.

Gas prices could continue to rise in Kansas in the near future and even approach the record state gas price average of $3.96 set in June 2008.

But Kloza did say the spike would likely begin to subside by mid-June once maintenance and repairs are completed at the various plants.

“I would suspect whatever you pay next week, you are going to pay substantially less when you get to the summer driving season.”

This is good news for area residents with summer plans.

“It really has affected me in all ways,” Justin Ballock, of Eudora. “I’ve cut back on trips to the lake.”

Ballock hopes that once gas prices fall, he can make it out to Clinton Lake and dust off his jet ski.

“They’re fun but expensive,” he said.