Relief may be in sight: Gas prices to drop up to 20 cents in a week

While gas prices are hovering just above $3 a gallon, relief may be in sight.

The price hikes Orange County has seen since Dec. 16 have started to fall, and GasBuddy predicts within a week prices in the region will be 15 cents to 20 cents lower than they are today.

“Prices are going back to where they should be,” GasBuddy petroleum analyst Allison Mac said. “They have been going up since Dec. 16 because of refinery issues. We saw prices go up here while the rest of the nation was seeing $1.99 prices.”

“Some of the refinery issues have been fixed and some of the refineries are back up and running. But the main thing here is that imports have increased,” she said.

At the end of December, gas prices in Orange County rose more than 16 cents in a week because of partial shutdowns at two California refineries and a drop in imports of refined gasoline and gasoline ingredients.

A Tesoro refinery in Carson and a Chevron refinery in El Segundo were partially shut down Nov. 23 and Dec. 12, respectively.

Now that some of these issues have been resolved, Mac expects prices to fall.

An ExxonMobil refinery in Torrance has been down since last February. When the refinery re-opens, Mac expects motorists to find more relief at the pump. It is unknown at this time when the refinery will reopen.

Low crude oil prices have also added to low gas prices.

But Mac said in mid-February prices may increase as gas stations begin to switch to summer blend of gas from the winter blend.

The summer blend is roughly 12 cents a gallon more expensive to make than the winter blend. It is less likely to evaporate in hot weather than the winter blend, which means less air pollution.

Gas stations must switch to the winter blend by April 1.

As refineries switch from the winter to the summer blend, maintenance issues can arise, which can increase gas prices.

Contact the writer: hmadans@ocregister.com or Twitter: @HannahMadans

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