Gasoline rises most in three months at U.S. pumps

Retail gasoline in the U.S. rose the most since February in the past week after crude costs increased and refinery outages on the West Coast disrupted supplies.

Gasoline at the pump, averaged across the U.S., advanced 6.5 cents from the prior week to $3.603 a gallon for the seven days ended yesterday, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. It was the biggest gain since Feb. 18. The price was 15.1 cents lower than a year earlier.

Prices rose in every geographic region, led by the West Coast where tariffs increased 12.7 cents to $3.938 a gallon.

Phillips 66 (PSX) restarted a crude unit at its Ferndale refinery in Washington state yesterday after shutting it last week to repair a crack in the tower. Tesoro Corp. (TSO)’s Anacortes plant in Washington finished maintenance May 10 on a fluid catalytic cracker it shut May 6. Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) on May 6 began maintenance on several units at its Torrance refinery in Southern California.

“There was a series of refinery problems,” said Dave Hackett, the president of Stillwater Associates, an Irvine, California-based oil consultant. “There were shortfalls of product supplies in the Northwest, the Portland area. California sees that and reacts, and moves gasoline up from the Bay or Los Angeles to Portland.”

West Texas Intermediate crude futures increased 11 percent in a three-week period to $96.62 on May 8 from $86.68 a barrel on April 17. WTI for June delivery fell 87 cents to $95.17 a barrel yesterday, the lowest settlement since May 2.

“With the normal lag from crude oil to retail, I expect retail is now responding to higher crude oil prices as well,” Hackett said.

The cheapest gasoline was on the U.S. Gulf Coast, where prices at the pump gained 6.5 cents to $3.364 a gallon. The smallest increase was on the East Coast, where prices rose 3.2 cents to $3.484 a gallon.