Gas prices rise

Gas prices in Grand Cayman have been rising slowly this year, but prices at the pumps have still not crept up to some of the record highs of last year.

As of Monday from a cross section of gas stations surveyed, gas prices varied from $3.95 to $4.15 per gallon.

Some of last year’s highs for gas at the pumps hovered near $4.50 a gallon.

But diesel is very much on the rise now and has shot over $4 a gallon at some gas stations.

Last August diesel prices ranged from between $3.30 to $3.40 per gallon.

At Hell Esso Service Station in West Bay prices for full serve gas are $4.10 for super and $4.05 for regular.

Gasoline is $3.98 at East End Texaco.

At Whittaker’s Esso in North Side gas is $4.05 for regular and $4.15 for super.

At Texaco Star Mart on Shedden Road prices range from $3.95 to $4.06 per gallon while at David’s Esso on Shedden Road prices are $3.96 or $4.13 per gallon.

The latter station actually lowered its self serve prices by five cents on Monday to attract customers.

Neither Esso Ltd. nor Chevron (Texaco) Inc. set prices at the pump. They sell wholesale to the local dealers who are then free to set their own prices.

As of Monday this week Esso Ltd. had put its wholesale prices up three times this year. Premium grade gas was increased 8 cents a gallon in January, then 10 cents in March and 10 cents on 18 April, last week.

It increased its regular gas in January by 7 cents, 10 cents in March and 10 cents last week. Esso increased its diesel once this year, in March, by eight cents.

Armando Vegas, Retail District Manager for Chevron Caribbean Inc., which supplies fuel to Cayman’s Texaco stations, said they have put their wholesale prices up twice this year. The most recent, three weeks ago, was by five cents. Prior to that, a similar increase was put in place in February. If the trend of international fuel prices going up continues, Mr. Vegas said wholesale prices could likely go up again, but he could not say when or by how much.

Diesel is anywhere from $3.88 to $4.10 per gallon at various gas stations around the island.

It is $3.88 at David’s Esso, Shedden Road, $3.92 at Hell Esso Service Station, $3.96 at Whittaker’s Esso in North Side and $4.10 at East End Texaco.

Country Manager for Esso Ltd. Alan Neesome explained some reasons for the price of diesel sky rocketing. ‘New environmental regulations affecting the level of sulphur in diesel, means Low Sulphur Diesel and Ultra Low Sulphur Diesel is becoming more prevalent in preparation to becoming mandatory in Europe and the USA. The new diesels are reportedly more costly to produce. Also note Government duty on diesel is 10 cents a gallon higher than gasoline: CI60 cents a gallon versus CI50 cents a gallon.’

Last year in Cayman there was a significant rise in gas prices. In September gas prices at some service stations were at $4.14 and had gone up over $1 from the previous summer of 2004.

Last November prices began to decrease following a real spike that saw some full serve premium gasoline go from as high as $4.43 down to $4.13 a gallon.

In Cayman imperial gallons are dispensed, not US gallons.

Mr. Neesome explained that an imperial gallon is approximately 1.2 times greater than a US gallon. In other words CI$4 per one imperial gallon is the same as US$4 per US gallon.

Among many reasons given by Mr. Neesome for the general rise in gasoline include the increase in crude oil prices, which makes up about 60 per cent of the price of gasoline. ‘Crude oil prices have increased from about $54 per barrel in mid-February to more than $70 per barrel in mid-April.’

Crude oil is going up because of increased world demand and increases in the spot prices for gasoline.

Mr. Vegas points out that fuel prices are driven by supply and demand in the international markets.

These prices went up sharply at the end of January, beginning of February.

He said that another driving factor which may have put pressure on supply is the fact that many refineries schedule maintenance of their operations for the first quarter of each year.

Geo-political uncertainties in oil producing regions such as the Middle East, Africa and South America create price volatility.

Mr. Neesome stressed that no-one can accurately predict what fuel prices will do in the future and there is no direct comparison between Cayman and the USA, as the supply logistics are completely different.

‘Esso receives its deliveries by sea roughly every 15 to 21 days, fuel prices are subject to daily world variations and not within our control nor the Cayman Government’s. Esso is always looking to get the best possible price for the fuel quality we demand to provide to our customers.’

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