Gas prices up again

Gas prices are on the rise again.

Full serve premium gas costs in the region of $4.15 to $4.27 per imperial gallon at gas stations across Grand Cayman.

Recent wholesale price hikes from the two fuel companies that operate here have resulted in higher prices at the individual gas stations.

Country Manager of Esso Standard Oil Ltd. Alan Neesome explained that Esso decreased its wholesale prices in mid January and early February, totalling 15 cent a gallon for gas. The Esso wholesale price first increased this year in the third week of March, there were two increases in April and one earlier this month, amounting to an increase of 47 cents a gallon this year.

Likewise Chevron (Texaco) wholesale prices started to go up in late March, said District Retail Manager Chevron (Texaco) Caribbean Inc. Armando Vegas.

The individual gas station dealers set their own prices at the pump, so they can vary.

But since the fuel price signs, mandated by government, went up at service stations in March, it seems the price gap between stations has lessened.

From a cross section of gas stations around the island surveyed late last week and early this week, it seems the consumer can pay between $4.27 and $4.15 for full serve premium gas – just a difference of 12 cents per gallon.

In July 2006 when prices at the pump soared, the consumer could pay anywhere from $4.36 to $4.73 for full serve premium gas – showing a difference of 37 cents a gallon.

However, both Mr. Neesome and Mr. Vegas have said they believe it is too early to tell how the signs are affecting business.

Owner of the Esso service station in North Side Randy Whittaker said the signs don’t seem to be affecting his business any differently, as his level of sales seem the same and he still operates the way he always did, within the same profit margin, of 42 to 50 cent per imperial gallon of fuel.

‘Pretty much everyone knew the price of gas anyway, so I don’t think the signs have made much difference,’ he said. He added that the bigger stations are at an advantage because the volume they sell affords them to sell a few cents lower than the smaller dealers.

Mr. Vegas said that prices in the international markets have been constantly increasing since mid-January, affecting acquisition costs, but noted that prices didn’t start to move up in Cayman until a couple of months later.

Mr. Neesome said that this year factors influencing the price of gas include the continued fluctuation of the price of crude oil through winter and early spring because of increase in demand and tightness of supply.

‘The market price for crude oil is the result of the actions of thousands of willing buyers and sellers in a global market, all bidding for all of the available crude supplies,’ he explained.

The price also includes the effects of speculators and hedge funds activity in the futures market, he said.

‘We don’t plan for price changes in advance; these are in response to market forces. Typically gasoline prices tend to go up in the international markets during the summer months due to higher demand in the US market,’ Mr. Vegas said.

Any geopolitical uncertainty in oil producing regions such as the Middle East, Africa and South America, which supplies a significant share of this region’s crude imports and gasoline production, can create upward price pressures and increased price volatility, Mr. Neesome said.

‘Indications are that crude will remain at or about the $60 a barrel average in 2007. Since February there has been a tightness in supply of gasoline and any time that demand outstrips production will likely promote price volatility.’

Some prices surveyed from late last week and early this week include the following:

At Texaco on the corner of Godfrey Nixon Way and Eastern Avenue, premium was $4.17, power plus $4.14 and diesel at $3.83 per imperial gallon.

At the Esso station on the corner of Eastern Avenue and North Church Street the price for super was $4.18; regular gas at $4.14 and diesel was $3.94.

At Esso Tiger Market on Seven Mile Beach super was $4.19 and regular at $4.15 while diesel was $3.94.

At Texaco Starmart on Seven Mile Beach premium was $4.15, power plus was $4.11 and diesel at $3.87.

At Esso Tigermarket on Shedden Road the price of premium was $4.19, power plus at $4.15 while diesel was $3.89.

At Texaco Starmart on Shedden Road the price was $4.17 for super, $4.14 for regular and $3.83 for diesel.

At Hell Esso in West Bay prices were $4.19 for super, $4.15 for regular and $3.91 for diesel.

At Lorna’s Texaco in Bodden Town prices were $4.15 for premium, $4 for power plus and $3.84 for diesel.

At Esso in North Side the prices were $4.27 for super, $4.21 for regular, and $3.99 for diesel.

At Esso on the Run in Red Bay the price of super was $4.27 and regular at $4.22 while diesel was $3.96.

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