Region’s underperforming refineries cause of rising gas prices


By Daily News • Last Updated 11:02 am on Thursday, June 06, 2013

A sign listing the price of unleaded gasoline in Belding is listed at $4.29 on Wednesday afternoon. — Daily News/Cory Smith

By Kelli Ameling and Cory Smith

As Belding resident Steve Hunt watched the numbers climb while he filled his truck with gasoline Wednesday afternoon, he had but one thing to say.

“It’s ridiculous!” he exclaimed. “I haven’t seen prices this high before, and I drive every day.”

Hunt is one of many local drivers having to reach deep into their wallets just to fill up at the pump after prices jumped almost 20 cents in one day.

At $4.29 per gallon at the Belding Wesco gas station, Hunt says he stops to put gas in his truck once a week and the process can “be a hardship” with prices having escalated so high so quickly.

Belding resident Kelly Munger pumps gas into his car Wednesday afternoon. Munger stopped at the Marathon gas station where gas was still $4.01 per gallon before an afternoon spike saw local prices rise to $4.29 per gallon. — Daily News/Cory Smith

Across the street at the Marathon gas station, Belding residents Kelly and Christine Munger waited patiently in a line of cars to fuel their car as the price of a gallon was still listed at $4.01.

“When we came into town, we noticed prices had risen to $4.29, so we thought we better get some gas,” Kelly Munger said. “We just wonder, why are the prices going up?”

Christine Munger said she and her husband have made adjustments when filling up at the pump because of the higher prices.

“We’re not filling up, we’re putting less in just to get by until the price comes down again,” she said. “We’re definitely making adjustments when it comes to traveling.”

The husband and wife speculated as to the cause of the recent spike in price in Michigan, but could come to no conclusion.

Steve Hunt of Belding stopped fueling his truck when he hit $65. The price was $4.29 per gallon, the highest he says he’s ever seen in Michigan. — Daily News/Cory Smith

“It’s not a holiday, I just don’t understand it,” Christine Munger said.

According to Senior Petroleum Analyst Gregg Laskoski of GasBuddy.com, the price jump motorist are seeing in Michigan was caused by refineries in the Great Lakes Region experiencing problems.

“Your not alone,” Laskoski said. “All of the Great Lakes states are seeing the same thing.”

Michigan, along with other Great Lake states, operate off of the the same four or five refineries, which all seem to be underperforming, according to Laskoski.

The ExxonMobil refinery in Joliet, Ill., was shut down for maintenance that was supposed to last only 30 days. However, it has now been shut down for more than 40 days.

“They found a glitch so significant, they had to purchase gas on the open market, which lead to the spike,” Laskoski said.

Also, the BP refinery in Whiting, Ind., is in the middle of expanding its facility, which has resulted in under-production at that refinery as well.

Laskoski said when there are two or three other refineries on top of those two in the same region not producing at its normal level, the motorist are going to see an increase.

“We are hoping they get it corrected in the news few days,” he said.

Laskoski said in 24 hours, Michigan’s state average jumped nine cents. As of 4 p.m. Wednesday the state average was $4.19 per gallon for regular unleaded fuel. Nationally, he said, the state average is $3.63.

In the past two weeks Laskoski said the national average has actually dropped two cents. In that same time period, Michigan’s average went up 27 cents.

“It’s quite shocking,” Laskoski said. “We sympathize with what you are seeing.”

According to Gasbuddy.com, South Carolina has the lowest average of $3.180 per gallon of regular unleaded fuel, while Hawaii has the highest average at $4.330.

Michigan was listed as the second highest in the nation.

According to AAA.com, the national average for regular unleaded fuel this time last year was $3.570, which is six cents cheaper than the current national average.

Cars lined up at the Marathon gas station in Belding on Wednesday, eventually stretching out onto South Bridge Street, as motorists waited patiently to fill their vehicles with fuel before a spike in prices saw the price of gasoline jump to $4.29 per gallon.

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