After spike, gasoline prices hold steady in Pittsburgh

Average gasoline prices in the Pittsburgh region increased one cent over the last week and sit at $2.89 a gallon, according to price-tracking website GasBuddy.

The last week was a return to normalcy for Pittsburgh gasoline market after a 24-cent increase recorded from Aug. 29 to Sept. 5 — the largest weekly spike in the region recorded since GasBuddy began keeping detailed data in 2007. The spike came as Hurricane Harvey slammed the Houston area, temporarily knocking out refineries that produce roughly 25 percent of the country’s gasoline.  

The Gulf Coast refineries appeared to recover and start up within a few days of the storm’s passing, keeping prices from increasing further. Nationally, gasoline prices inched up 2 cents a gallon in the last week to average $2.68 a gallon.

“The effects (of Hurricane Harvey) are finally starting to weaken as refineries return to production and fuel begins to flow once again from many Houston refineries,” Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy, wrote in the website’s weekly media release.

Even with Hurricane Irma this week ravaging Florida and crawling up the East Coast, gasoline prices are expected to begin to fall back to pre-Harvey levels. 

Gasoline prices can fall at the end of summer as demand from motorists falls off and global crude oil prices — the largest factor in the price of U.S. gasoline — show no sign of rising. The global crude oil benchmark fell 1 percent on Monday to $53.22. 

“Motorists shouldn't expect to see any impact from Irma on gasoline prices due to the path being a considerable distance from sensitive areas of the energy sector,” Mr. DeHaan wrote. “With summer driving season now over, motorists stand to benefit from falling demand, which will help refineries bring gasoline inventories back to normal and thus gas prices.”

Even with the spike from Hurricane Harvey, Pittsburgh-area prices have stayed relatively flat in 2017.

Most years, seasonal pressures push up gasoline prices during the spring and summer months as demand from motorists rises with warmer weather. Last year, Pittsburgh-area prices rose 73 cents during the spring and summer months.

This year, gasoline has increased 35 cents since February — and most of that was gained in the last two weeks.

Compared with previous years, the region’s pumps are on average 52 cents more expensive than this time one year ago; 36 cents more expensive than this time in 2015; and 65 cents cheaper than this time in 2014.

Daniel Moore:, 412-263-2743 and Twitter @PGdanielmoore.

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