Chicago area gas prices jump steeply

SHARE Chicago area gas prices jump steeply
SHARE Chicago area gas prices jump steeply

Chicago area gas prices were jumping steeply Wednesday, fueled by a shutdown in the Midwest’s largest refinery.

Some prices were rising so quickly that drivers who filled up their gas tanks in the morning may well have saved themselves severalbucks by not waiting until mid-day.

Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst with gas buddy.com, said that over the course of a 7:30 a.m. Wednesday media interview he did outside a Chicago BP gas station at Wabash and Roosevelt, regular gas prices changed from $2.99 a gallon to $3.29.

“I’m sure that station will increase once or twice more in the next few days,” DeHaan said.

Between 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, gas buddy.com’s average price for regular gas in Cook County rose from $2.92 to $2.946. Over those same 2 1/2 hours, in Lake County the average jumped from $2.73 to $2.854, and in Du Page County it rose from $2.77 to $2.865.

AAA’s Fuel Gauge Report put the Chicago average at midday Wednesday at $3.03 a gallon versus $2.81 in the Chicago Metro Area.

Experts tied the price hikes to problems Saturday at BP’s Whiting refinery — the largest in the Midwest and seventh largest in the nation. The biggest of the refinery’s three crude distillation units is now shut down for “unscheduled repair work,” causing reduced production, according to BP spokesman Scott Dean.

“BP is working to safely restart the unit as soon as possible. In the meantime, the company is working to meet its fuel supply obligations,” Dean said in an email.

However, Reuters quoted sources familiar with the refinery’s plans as saying the damage will require at least a month to repair.

Prices will probably go up a bit more before tumbling, said DeHaan.

“People should continue bracing for more spikes, perhaps for the next several days,” DeHaan said. “Maybe for a week. It all depends on how quickly stations pass on the higher costs. After stations complete passing along the increase, prices may stabilize.”

However, DeHaan said, once the refinery is repaired, a “plunge in prices” is expected.

“This refinery issue is the only thing standing in the way of ultra-low prices in the Midwest,” DeHaan said. “It’s the entire bottleneck. Prices nationally, outside of California, are going down.”

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