U.S. drivers are now paying more to fill up their gas tanks than they ever have at this time of year.
The national average price of retail gasoline posted its biggest overnight increase in 23 months,rising four cents to $3.462 a gallon on Friday, according to AAA. The average price has risen 13 cents in the past week, a 4 percent jump.
“This is the highest price record for February 1st,” says OPIS analyst Tom Kloza, who predicts the average price could reach $3.50 a gallon this weekend.
NYMEX March RBOB gasoline futures, which help determine prices at the pump, have risen 10 percent in the past two weeks to a session high of $3.045 a gallon on Friday.
“Refinery issues and speculation about refinery issues has a lot of money betting on still higher prices,” Kloza said.
Oil producer Hess announced earlier this week that it is shutting its refinery in Port Reading, N.J., by the end of February. That refinery accounts for about 7.5 percent of oil production on the East Coast at about 70,000 barrels per day. Philadelphia Energy Solutions is also set to begin planned maintenance at its 335,000 barrel per day Philadelphia refinery.
Traders and analysts forecast the closure and maintenance of refineries near the New York Harbor will further tighten gasoline supplies in the region. Planned maintenance in other parts of the country also add to concerns about gasoline supplies.
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