Over the next week, suburban and Chicago gas prices could rise between 10 cents and 40 cents a gallon because of a combination of regional factors, one gas expert warned Tuesday.
Recent jumps in wholesale gas prices, problems at an Indiana and an Illinois refinery, and the ongoing switch from winter to more expensive summer fuel are expected to conspire to raise prices at the pump, said Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst with gasbuddy.com.
By noon Tuesday, some Chicago area gas stations already had posted hefty price increases compared to the morning price. At a Speedway station in New Lenox, for example, a gallon of regular gas jumped from $2.17 to $2.49 in that time, DeHaan said.
DeHaan also pointed to Tuesday changes in the prices at a Bolingbrook Speedway, from $2.25 to $2.49; a Downers Grove Speedway, from $2.29 to $2.49; an Itasca Speedway, from $2.24 to $2.49 and a Des Plaines Speedway, from $2.39 to $2.59. Speedway is often the first station to reflect gas price fluctuations, he said.
For gas stations where prices had not yet headed upward, DeHaan predicted a 20 to 40 cent rise in the suburbs over the next week, and a 10 to 20 cent uptick in Chicago over that time.
The increases “will slowly infiltrate the suburbs and then slowly infiltrate the city,” DeHaan said. “There’s still a potential that a motorist can go out and fill up at a lower price.”
The price increases will eventually recede, but “much will hinge” on how quickly a BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana, and an Exxon Mobil refinery in Joliet get back to normal following some recent “refinery kinks,” DeHaan said.
Tom Kloza, an analyst with the Oil Price Information Service, was more cautious. In the next five days, area prices might move 5 cents higher, but “to me, it’s a head fake,” he said.
The switchover from winter to summer blends “always creates a wobble higher,” Kloza said.
“There’s no reason for panic,” Kloza said, adding that the largest surplus in crude that he has seen in 35 years will translate into lower prices than last year.
“I think the larger trend, and the trend you will see through the spring, will be for very flat to lower prices,” Kloza said.
“My hunch is if you see some [stations] go up, be patient, because the general trend is for prices to be $1 to $1.20 below what we saw last year in the Great Lakes.”