‘A perfect storm’: Gas prices could hit $1.60 by April, expert says

Prices will shoot up to 155.7 cents a litre by end of week or early next week

If you think 154.9 cents a litre at the gas pump is painful, one expert has some bad news: the price could go even higher in the next week.

“This is the highest we’ve seen in four years and we’re likely to smash that number in the next week,” said Gas Buddy senior analyst Dan McTeague.

McTeague said a “perfect storm” of increased demand, a chronic shortage of gasoline – not helped by refineries shutting down for spring maintenance – and a weak Canadian dollar will keep pushing prices up to 155.7 cents a litre by early next week. The price hasn’t been that high since June 2014.

READ: B.C. gas prices to hit highest levels in years: GasBuddy forecast

“On April 1,” he went on, “we’ll see prices moving much higher because of the carbon price increasing 1.22 cents a litre and we will see the transition from winter to summer gasoline.

Summer gas is more expensive for refineries to produce so that it doesn’t evaporate like winter gas.

“That’s usually good for three to four cents litre,” McTeague said. “That could push us to the $1.60 range as early as the beginning of April if nothing else changes.”

“It looks like on average consumers are going to pay $500-700 more per year just to get around.”

McTeague said he had expected prices to dip with the Parkland refinery in Burnaby coming back on board, but there’s been no sign of that so far.

However: “It’s an older refinery and it looks like they may not be able to produce as much as they did in the past.”

The four-day closure of the Olympic pipeline, which carries gas from the BP Cherry Point refinery in Washington state, hasn’t helped. Nor will the temporary maintenance-related closure of the Cherry Point and Andover refineries.

“We can’t get out of it any way you look at it,” said McTeague. “Anytime we think we can get a break somewhere, the supply keeps tightening.”

BP is the main supplier of most jet fuel to YVR, he added, so flights could get more expensive.

Trans Mountain pipeline expansion ‘only solution’

McTeague dismissed any political behind-the-scene happenings as a factor in rising prices.

“It’s economics 101. If you don’t build the Kinder Morgan, get used to $1.60 or more per litre of gasoline, regardless of the politics of it.”

Twinning the existing Trans Mountain pipeline would allow one half to specifically carry oil, as well as allow more gasoline, diesel and jet fuel to come in altogether.

McTeague, who has long pointed to B.C.’s dependence on Washington oil as a cause of its gas price woes, said the anti-pipeline protests could have more consequences down the road.

“If an approved pipeline is meeting with this kind of resistance, no one in their right minds is going to invest in putting in a refinery.”


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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