Gasoline prices flatten out before projected rise

Prices at the pump have flattened out in the past week in anticipation of seasonal increases in the coming days and months.

For the past week, including Monday, the Houston average for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline has hovered at about $2.07, as well as $2.28 nationwide, according to GasBuddy, which tracks fuel prices and refining activity.

Gasoline prices typically start rising in March to mark the seasonal shift to a busier driving season with more expensive summer-grade fuels. Late winter and early spring typically marks the time when many of the nation’s oil refineries undergo seasonal maintenance to begin churning out the more costly, cleaner-burning gasoline types that are less prone to evaporation during the hotter summer months.

Although gasoline prices remain relatively low, they’re still higher than the low prices that resulted from the two-year oil bust. The national average is 54 cents higher per gallon than a year ago, noted Patrick DeHaan, GasBuddy senior petroleum analyst.

“Despite oil prices that remain range bound in the low to mid-$50’s per barrel, refinery status and the likely draw in inventories will win this week’s tug of war at the pump, keeping upward pressure on gasoline prices,” DeHaan stated.