Roanoke – Drivers across the Mid-Atlantic region continue to see lower prices at the pumps. Post hurricane, Gulf Coast refineries are building toward resuming normal operations, but it could take some longer than others to return to pre-hurricane production rates, officials at AAA Mid-Atlantic said Sunday. As utilization rates increase and operations improve across the Gulf Coast, gas prices will continue to drop.
Sunday’s national gas price average is $2.50, which is six cents lower than this time last week, 17 cents lower than this time last month and 24 cents higher than this time last year. In Roanoke the average gas price is $2.37, dropping down from $2.44 one week ago. Virginia's average gas price sits at $2.33, down from $2.39 one week ago.
At the close of NYMEX trading Friday, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil settled at $49.29 per barrel, $2.38 lower than the previous week’s closing price. Oil prices hovered around the $50 mark most of the week on talk of an extension for a deal to cut output, a larger-than-expected decrease in U.S. crude supplies (6 million barrels), and concerns over potential damage caused by now Tropical Storm Nate in the Gulf of Mexico. In addition, overall fall season gasoline demand may not be enough to drain high U.S. oil inventories.
Tammy Arnette, Senior Public Affairs Specialist for AAA Mid-Atlantic said gas prices tend to be cheaper during fall months compared to summer, but that isn't the case this year.
“Motorists expect gas prices to be cheaper in the fall than they were during the summer months, but that’s not the case this year due to hurricanes affecting refining and production capacity in the Gulf Coast,” Arnette said. “While gas prices are higher than we’d like to see, they will continue to decline and could drop by 10 cents in October.”
Hurricane Nate, now downgraded to a Tropical Storm, brought high winds and flooding across the Gulf Coast region overnight. The U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement reported there were evacuations from 301 oil platforms and 13 rigs as of Saturday. The storm has also shut down most oil and gas production in the Gulf. Any interruption to refining and production capacity could halt recent gas price declines.