Gas prices were just under $1.50 a litre on Monday in Surrey at Highway 10 and 152 Street.

Gas price climb driven by refinery trouble

Near-record pump pain for Metro Vancouver motorists

Gas prices in Metro Vancouver are flirting with record levels but at least one industry observer doesn’t expect they’ll shoot too much higher.

The average regular gas price in Metro hit $1.495 per litre Tuesday, up about eight cents in the past week.

Petroleum analyst Jason Parent, a senior associate at the Kent Group, said supplies have tightened and prices are up partly in response to the unexpected shutdown of gasoline refining units at a Suncor refinery near Edmonton.

He said the outlook for the Lower Mainland depends in part on how long refining is disrupted at Suncor.

“It all depends on how long that lasts and how effectively suppliers are able to bring in alternate supply into that region,” Parent said. “Generally speaking, I wouldn’t expect it to get much higher.”

Gas prices typically jump in the spring as more drivers take to the roads, cutting into gasoline supplies and putting upward pressure on prices.

But Parent said the traditional seasonal spike happened earlier this year.

He said wholesale prices paid by retailers have already risen about 14 cents in the last couple of weeks.

“Retail prices up until the last couple of days haven’t really kept pace with that.”

Gas prices here are also influenced by the fact Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline, which supplies much of Metro’s refined gasoline, is at capacity.

Parent said the pipeline may have allocated slightly more capacity recently to crude oil shipments, leaving less flexibility to move more gasoline in response to jumps in demand.

Motorists shouldn’t assume that they’re being ripped off just because gasoline prices are rising at a time that crude oil prices haven’t moved as much.

“Crude oil and refined gasoline are two different commodities with different supply and demand fundamentals,” Parent said. “Their prices can be moving in opposite directions at the same time for different reasons.”

Gas prices here hit a recent bottom of around $1.20 per litre in December, according to the website Gasbuddy.com.

Metro Vancouver gas prices haven’t been this lofty since the record highs of around $1.50 a litre in the summer of 2008, and prices now would be lower than at that time if not for increases since then in B.C.’s carbon tax or TransLink’s fuel tax.

 

Vancouver Historical Gas Price Charts Provided by GasBuddy.com