Pipeline spill, refinery troubles partly responsible for gas price spike

Pipeline spill, refinery troubles partly responsible for gas price spike

CHAMPAIGN — Gasoline price increases this week hurled Champaign-Urbana into the ranks of the nation's most expensive communities in which to buy gas.

Early this week, some stations in Champaign-Urbana were selling gas for as little as $3.26 a gallon.

But by Friday, the average price of gas in Champaign-Urbana had risen to $3.94, according to GasBuddy.com, an online monitor of local and national gasoline prices.

"Champaign is the 13th most expensive community in all 50 states," said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com in Chicago. "Chicago is leading the nation at $4.25 a gallon."

The major factor: a pipeline spill in Wisconsin that prompted a shutdown of some supplies to the Chicago area.

The situation was complicated by equipment malfunctions at two refineries in the Chicago area and another refinery in the St. Louis area.

DeHaan was unsure how long it might be before regulators allow the pipeline to be restarted.

"It could be days or weeks. I doubt it would be months — probably one to three weeks at the worst," he said.

Meanwhile, motorists in the Champaign-Urbana area looking for relief might consider driving a half-hour south.

Maps at GasBuddy.com indicated that some gas stations in Douglas and Coles counties were selling gas in the $3.57 to $3.67-per-gallon range. Effingham, an hour away, also looked relatively cheap.

The price increases sent rates way up in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan, and to a lesser extent, Wisconsin.

Prices in Iowa and Missouri tended to be 30- to 40-cents-a-gallon less, with huge differentials — at least for the short term — on the west side of the Mississippi River.

"Champaign's average gas price today is higher than California's by about 13 cents," DeHaan said Friday. "That's very unusual."

Illinois had the highest gas price among the 48 states in the continental United States, with an average of $4.05 a gallon.

"The majority of areas saw big increases Monday and another one Thursday," DeHaan said.

Wholesale gas prices rose 22 cents a gallon on Wednesday alone and 62 cents a gallon since July 25, he said.

DeHaan said retail prices tend not to rise as quickly as wholesale prices, for competitive reasons. But he said stations "tend to recoup their profits when prices go down," sometimes lowering prices a few pennies at a time.

In charging for gas, stations can make anywhere from nothing to 20 to 25 cents a gallon, DeHaan said. But the latter case is "a rare situation," he said.

Generally, stations make anywhere from nothing to 5 cents a gallon on sales, he said.

The pipeline spill occurred July 27 on Enbridge Energy Partners' Line 14 in Adams County, Wis. That pipeline runs from Superior, Wis., to Mokena, Ill., and is part of a system that extends from North Dakota to Chicago, with an extension to Buffalo, N.Y.

The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration ordered the pipeline shut down and outlined a list of corrective actions Enbridge must take before the line can be restarted.

In a release, the federal agency said Enbridge's "integrity management program may be inadequate."

Prior to Friday's spill of 1,200 barrels of crude oil, Enbridge had spilled 840,000 gallons of crude oil in Marshall, Mich., in 2010. The agency also cited a 2007 failure on Line 14, as well as problems during construction of that line.

The pipeline problems came on top of equipment malfunctions at the BP refinery in Whiting, Ind.; the Citgo refinery in Lemont on Chicago's southwest side; and the Wood River refinery near St. Louis, operated by ConocoPhillips.

Equipment malfunctions typically "take four to seven days" to remedy, depending on the severity, DeHaan said.

Gas prices


Here's the range of prices for regular unleaded gas in some area communities, as reported by GasBuddy.com on Friday afternoon:

  •  Champaign: $3.92-$3.95
  •  Urbana: $3.86-$3.95
  •  Danville: $3.94-$3.98
  •  Rantoul: $3.84-$3.95
  •  Mahomet: $3.85
  •  Charleston: $3.89-$3.95
  •  Bloomington: $3.75-$4.09
  •  Watseka: $3.79
  •  Effingham: $3.65-$3.85
  •  Tuscola: $3.59-$3.89
  •  Mattoon: $3.59-$3.95
  •  Covington, Ind.: $3.79-$3.94

Gas prices may change by today. For updates, check GasBuddy.com.

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yates wrote on August 04, 2012 at 10:08 am

Yea, yea, yea, any excuse to gouge Illinois consumers. If you live in Illinois, getting screwed comes with the territory.

wantsthetruth wrote on August 04, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Will gas drop 70 cents in the span of 4 days when it gets fixed?  I know the answer,, NO! 

pattsi wrote on August 04, 2012 at 12:08 pm

A question that has been asked on previous occasions, but never generates an answer, yet still interesets me, is why no one in the appropriate position in the county and state does not go after gas stations for price fixing. What occurs here may not meet the legal definition, but publicly displays a domino effect when one station raises the price, all the others do within a very short period of time. If I remember correctly another poster pointed out, those who live here can pretty much guess when gas prices will jump--football games, return of students, exit of students on holidays, etc.--so purchase gas just before those occasions. This will, in turn, cause an economic hit on the stations.

l dedub wrote on August 04, 2012 at 1:08 pm

impossible to do. good theory. back when all this gas gouging started after the hurricane,the govt DID do a analysis of the price gouging. the findings, price gouging is NOT illegal. its moraly unethical. welcome to u.s.a. land of giving to the thieves.

corruptville wrote on August 04, 2012 at 4:08 pm
Profile Picture

To you other posters here....... Please you should being paying way more, the costs on the tax system are huge from your usage of gasoline way more than you think. I think gasoline connsumers should be forced to pay a higher price based on the same reasons we have higher tax rates on other products that are dangerous to the health and the over-all saftey of the citizens of this country as well as put a huge burden on the tax system. More people are killed and or injured while operating gasoline motorized auto's than while using  any other product that is taxed soley for health and saftey as well as the burden on the tax system. I look at gasoline as America's Drug, face it your addicts and need help understanding your destroying our Earth and the possiblity of maintaining an inhabbitable planet for future generations. I know what do you care your only going to be around for eighty years or so if your lucky not to be killed from the usage of this lethal product.

I pitty you people who are complaining about the price of gas because you've all been brainwashed into thinking it's ok to consume 500 million barrels of crude a day!

Bulldogmojo wrote on August 04, 2012 at 5:08 pm

Corruptville...I agree we are burning way too many fossil fuels and damaging our planet. As Harvard MD and author, Michael Crichton once said "Lets move a little bit, what are you gonna do about it"? in regard to improving the environment.

We would all be glad to drive cars that are run on pollution free perpetually renewable energy. The old addage" build a better mouse trap and the world will beat a path to your door". We would all be glad to participate in the ownership of vehicles YOU could invent that would solve YOUR very legitimate complaints. So for all your concern and mayonnaise jar recycling, I must say the world is already full of "awareness" on the subject of the environment. Feel free to show us the way...

Daxndata wrote on August 04, 2012 at 5:08 pm

You sound to be a foreginer in this country.  How about we tax the water at an extremely high rate...people will pay it, they HAVE to have the water.  Gasoline is pretty much a necessity in the world today.  I would like to see it become less important so that we would not be so enraged when we buy whatever amount we needed.  I would also like the oil industry to go the way of the spice industry.  Think of this:  500 years ago the spice industry was as powerful as the oil is today.  The big difference I see is that for the vast majority of people, they do not live within a distance that is reasonable to walk or ride a bike to work.  Could you imagine how long it would take to go someplace on vacation, or a weekend get-away if horses were the mode of travel?  It would take more than a day just to go from Champaign to Chicago.  So with all that said, gasoline is over taxed and over priced...just a bunch of theives trying to make a killing at our expense.

Daxndata wrote on August 04, 2012 at 6:08 pm

Partly responsible my (deleted due to the grapfic nature)!!!  DOes anybody remember back in 2008 when the gas prices were at or above $4?  The price of oil got up to $142 before that happened.  Now, when the price of gasoline hits $3.95 in Urbana on Thursday, the prices for the WTI oil was about $87 and the Brent crude was about $105.  SO with the oil prices be so "low," why are we paying even $3 for a gallon of gas?  Do NOT try and blame any "new" taxes on gasoline at the pump, or even this crap being spewed out about a spill or "refinery troubles."  The plain truth is that the government, whether it be state or federal, si NOT holding up to its mandate of protecting the American people.  I expect my government to protect me from companies gouging, and even stealing , from me as a consumer.  Remember when ExonMobil reported TWO back- to-back quarters of a $10 BILLION net profit (that is AFTER the expenses are taken off the revenues)?  We were and moire than likely still ARE providing them with a subsidy to run their business.  Why are we doing that and STILL having the price issues?  Why are we doing that and STILL having budget issues?  I asked Dick Durbin's office and Tim Johnson's office about these gas prices paired with the oil proces and have yet to hear ANYTHING!  Sounds like it is a good thing Tim Johnson is leaving office...Maybe Dick Durbin should follow hom out the door!

s wrote on August 04, 2012 at 9:08 pm

Traveling through pennsylvania,Ohio, and Indiana on Saturday. All gas prices above $3.90

Bought gas on Friday for $3.59

sameeker wrote on August 05, 2012 at 7:08 am

Every time there is a "pipeline problem" or a "refinery problem", the oil companies should forfeit all profits and be fined a million a day untill the problem is fixed. That would be a fair solution for them not maintaining their facilities.

Sid Saltfork wrote on August 06, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Vice President, Dick Cheney, refused to provide the names of the National Energy Commission members.  It went to the Supreme Court for a decision.  Before the court decided the issue; Dick Cheney, and Justice Anthony Scalia went duck hunting.  The two "good men" denied that there was any discussion of the case in the duck blind.  The country went to war with Iran because of alleged weapons of mass destruction.  The Iranian oil was promised to pay for the war.  President George W. Bush addressed oil executives in Texas; and bragged to them that they were his "base".  Dick Cheney was CEO for Halliburton before becoming vice president.  Halliburton was awarded "no bid" contracts in Iran, and Afganistan during and after the wars.  The recent energy boom in Wyoming has Dick Cheney involved again.  Mitt Romney is pushing for the Keystone Pipeline; and supports "fracking" along with removing federal regulations.  "Money talks, and _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ walks."  Politics depends on money.

sameeker wrote on August 09, 2012 at 1:08 am

The pipeline is fixed; however, I don't see prices dropping .50 cents in one day. Greedy skunks.

Orbiter wrote on August 10, 2012 at 5:08 pm

You got it, sameeker! And even if the price of corn doubles, increasing the cost of the 10% alcohol in gasoline would only account for around a 5% increase of a gallon.  So $3.50 becomes $3.67.  No, let's not allow them to blame the corn.  It's time for this country to begin viewing gasoline as a UTILITY, like electricity and telephones, and to REGULATE its distribution and pricing, accordingly.