A 15-cent jump in Metro Vancouver gasoline prices has motorists stinging from a sudden new bout of pain at the pumps.
And with the end of winter in sight, it could get even worse.
Average prices in Metro Vancouver hit $1.42 per litre Tuesday – within a cent of last year’s summer peak – before easing slightly.
Gasoline had been relatively stable at around $1.27 per litre here from late November until Feb. 14.
The only time prices have been significantly higher than now was in the summer of 2008, when Metro Vancouver pump prices briefly topped $1.50 a litre as crude oil prices spiked to $150 a barrel.
Crude now is close to $110 a barrel, driven up in part by fears that Iran’s effort to build nuclear weapons could spark military conflict in the Middle East.
But petroleum industry analysts say the Feb. 18 fire at BP’s Cherry Point refinery near Blaine, Washington is a big factor driving prices up locally.
Although the still-idled refinery doesn’t supply the Lower Mainland – gas here comes through Kinder Morgan’s pipeline from Alberta or is refined by Chevron in Burnaby – the reduced supply south of the border has forced prices up there and is having a spillover effect on prices in B.C.
If Lower Mainland prices didn’t rise in tandem, analysts say, gas here would flow south of the border, drawn by higher prices.
Jason Toews, co-founder of price-tracking website gasbuddy.com, calls it a case of bad timing for the refinery fire, because more motorists always take to the road in spring and summer, and that will soon force prices higher still.
“It’s terrible news for gas prices,” he said. “Summer driving season brings a lot more driving. Crude oil is already high. And then there’s the Iran factor if war was to break out.”
Toews said Lower Mainland drivers are unlikely to see significant price relief until September and he predicts gasoline will set new record highs here this spring.
“I think we’re going to see a spike in May,” he said. “Vancouver will probably see average gas prices around $1.60, with some stations as high as $1.70.”
As of Wednesday, Bellingham prices were US $4.05 per gallon, the equivalent of about $1.05 per litre.
Gas prices in the U.S. city have climbed 12 per cent this month, compared to about 10 per cent in Metro Vancouver.
There’s no estimate yet of when the Cherry Point refinery will return to full production.
|Vancouver Historical Gas Price Charts Provided by GasBuddy.com|