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State gas prices climb by 15 cents

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - West Virginia gas prices have shot up by nearly 15 cents over the last week as rising crude oil prices and regional refinery issues affect prices at local pumps.

Regular-grade gasoline cost an average $3.635 a gallon Monday, up 14.8 cents from the $3.487 average one week ago, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report.

The price is nearly 20 cents more than the average pump price one month ago, and about 4 cents more than the $3.594 average recorded one year ago.

All but one Charleston station had gas priced at $3.65 a gallon Monday afternoon, according to online price-tracking firm GasBuddy.com.  

Analysts say increases in global crude oil prices are to blame.

"The national average has ticked higher in the last week, as rising oil prices have put upward pressure on gasoline prices," stated Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com.

Crude oil costs account for about 68 percent of the pump price of gasoline, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Crude prices have been on a steady climb in recent weeks, rising from $86 a barrel in mid-December to more than $98 last week.

Analysts say a mix of positive global economic data and cuts in supply from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) cartel have helped bolster prices in recent weeks.

Speculators and hedge funds have also increased bets in oil markets as well.

According to a Bloomberg report Monday, money managers increased net-long positions in the crude oil market for the seventh week in a row last week. The number of net-long positions - which are essentially wagers that prices will continue going higher - are now at a nine-month high.

Analysts expect prices to keep rising through the spring.

"Unfortunately for angry motorists, there doesn't seem to be much relief in sight, at least for the time being, as retail prices continue to climb in virtually all areas of the country," DeHaan said.

Refineries soon will begin the process of switching to summer gasoline blend production, which is also expected to put upward pressure on prices.

"Gas prices are expected to rise steadily as many refineries temporarily close for scheduled turnaround maintenance and as the industry begins the complicated process of switching over to summer blends of gasoline," AAA analyst Avery Ash said in his latest forecast.

Refinery issues already are having a trickle-down effect in the state.

Both the ExxonMobil and Phillips 66 refineries in Illinois have had to shut down some capacity to conduct repairs in the last month.

That has siphoned off some gasoline supply in the Great Lakes states, which has a domino effect into the West Virginia market.

"We operate on such lean inventories that it doesn't take much to put things into a tailspin," said Jan Vineyard, president of the West Virginia Oil Marketers and Grocers Association.

Vineyard said the fact that refinery issues are already affecting prices in February is not welcome news for local retailers.  

"It's a little bit early for that, but nonetheless it has happened," she said.

Nationally, gas prices averaged $3.34 a gallon in January, according to the Energy Information Agency.

The EIA forecasts prices will continue to rise through spring and peak at $3.59 a gallon in May, before declining through the summer driving season. The agency predicts the national average will continue to fall to $3.25 a gallon by the end of 2013.

Contact writer Jared Hunt at jared.hunt@dailymail.com or 304-348-5148.

 


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