New England Gas Prices to Outpace Nation as Refineries Close

Monday, 05 Mar 2012 04:45 PM

By Greg McDonald

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Gasoline prices are expected to rise faster in New England because of oil refinery shutdowns that directly impact the northeastern U.S. coast, according to the Boston Globe.

At least three refineries — two in Pennsylvania and one on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands — have closed, and a fourth, also located in Pennsylvania, is for sale. As a result, gas prices in New England are expected to rise as much as 15 cents a gallon above normal increases now being driven by unrest in the Middle East and other issues, the Globe reported Monday.

The three facilities account for at least half of the refining capacity on the East Coast, the Globe reported. The prices of diesel fuel and heating oil, which also were refined at the plants, are expected to rise accordingly.

“If they can’t get [replacement supplies], your prices are going to spike,’’ said Phil Flynn, an oil analyst with PFGBest in Chicago.

John Felmy, the chief economist with the American Petroleum Institute in Washington, D.C., agreed, citing the lack of energy infrastructure in New England.

“You don’t have refineries in New England,” Felmy said. “You don’t have pipelines. You’re really an island.’’

As an example of how serious the problem is, the Globe noted that the potential shutdown of a Sunoco facility in Philadelphia could affect nearly one-fourth of the East Coast refining capacity.

Sunoco, which says it lost nearly a $1 billion on the plant over the past three years, plans to shut it down in July if buyer can’t be found.

“We could stay in the refining business and put the entire company at risk, or we could exit the refining business and stop the financial losses,” said Sunoco spokesman Thomas Golembeski.

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