Fuel prices are ratcheting up at the fastest pace since November in Arkansas as gas station owners are raising prices ahead of the oil industry’s upcoming refinery maintenance season.
According to AAA, U.S. gas prices have jumped nine cents in the past week to an average of $1.80 for a gallon of regular unleaded as some refineries switchover to spring fuel blends and cut production in response to abundant supplies. Despite these seasonal increases, abundant gasoline supplies and lower crude oil costs should keep gas prices from rising as high as drivers have seen in recent years, officials said.
However, the timing of the shifts from winter-grade to spring-grade gasoline and from spring-grade to summer-grade gasoline vary by region, industry analysts say. The transition happens earlier in areas of the country where temperatures warm earlier in the calendar year, like Southern California.
For example, the spot price of wholesale gasoline in Los Angeles fell as low as 66 cents per gallon on Feb. 18, the lowest spot gasoline price in the nation and something that has only occurred on 24 days in the past 10 years, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
In the U.S. Gulf Coast region, which includes Arkansas, spot gasolines prices rose 13 cents in the last week of February. Although retailers obtain gasoline stockpiles based on their relationship with suppliers, local pump prices in Arkansas and most regions directly reflect the wholesale price of gasoline that retailers purchase from refiners or at the terminal, also known as “the rack.”
Arkansas motorists are paying on average about $1.63 per gallon, up 12 cents from a week ago. Still, pump prices in the Natural State are well below a year ago, when drivers were paying $2.26 per gasoline for regular unleaded, AAA data shows.
Pump prices in the state’s metropolitan areas range from a low of $1.59 and $1.60 per gallon in the Little Rock region and the Texarkana area, respectively, to a high of $1.68 per gallon in Northwest Arkansas. Motorists in the Pine Bluff area are paying on average about $1.62 to fill up, and Fort Smith drivers are seeing prices at an average of $1.66 per gallon.
But some areas of Arkansas are seeing greater prices swings than others. For example, prices that fell as low as $1.42 for a gallon of regular unleaded in the Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers area have jumped in some areas as high as 27 cents, according to GasBuddy.com. On the other hand, the price band in the Little Rock metro area is only about 10 cents, topping out at around $1.60 per gallon.
Drivers choosing to fill up their tanks with a higher-grade of gasoline should expect to pay an average premium of $2.09 a gallon across the state, AAA data shows. Big rig drivers and other diesel fuel users will see pump prices at about $1.81 a gallon, down from $2.69 per gallon from a year ago.