Gas prices at one group of retail gas stations fell significantly this week, while other retail average prices remained largely unchanged from two weeks ago.
Rubis retail outlets started dropping their prices on Monday at various locations, ending Thursday at an average of $4.37 per gallon of regular, unleaded gasoline at stations in Bodden Town, George Town and West Bay.
Meanwhile, as of Thursday, Sol Petroleum-supplied stations posted an average $4.69 per gallon of regular unleaded in the same areas. The same prices were recorded during the last Petroleum Inspectorate review on Sept. 11.
The disparity created some unusual situations among competing stations Thursday. For instance, in Bodden Town, Lorna’s Rubis advertised its regular unleaded price per gallon at $4.38 and its premium per gallon price at $4.94. Just down the street, Mostyn’s Esso advertised $4.69 a gallon for regular, unleaded – 31 cents higher than Lorna’s. However, its premium price was $4.79 per gallon – 15 cents lower.
The two stations are about 1,000 yards away from one another.
In George Town, the Esso station at the corner of North Sound and Shedden roads on Thursday was selling regular unleaded for $4.69 per gallon, and the Rubis – about 1,500 yards away – was selling it for $4.36.
Cayman’s retail fuel prices have remained stubbornly high since early July. Records kept by the Petroleum Inspectorate indicated the average price for a gallon of regular, full-service gasoline was $4.71 at that date. By late August the average remained virtually the same.
It was not until this week that customers at Rubis stations began seeing some significant relief at the pump.
Sol/Esso representatives were contacted about the variance in fuel prices but had not responded by press time Thursday.
Both petrol distributors have noted that they typically receive fuel shipments about every three to four weeks and that cargo may have been loaded on the supply ship several weeks before arriving here. This delay has often been blamed for creating a lag in pricing compared to current international rates.
Meanwhile, both U.S. and worldwide petrol price benchmarks continued to fall steadily, according to industry officials.
The American Automobile Association put the average price per gallon for regular, unleaded gasoline at US$2.29 per gallon. That’s down about 10 cents from the beginning of this month and down nearly 50 cents per gallon since early July.
The Nasdaq stock exchange listed Brent crude prices on Thursday at US$48.25 per barrel. The same price was recorded in early September, but Brent crude remains down significantly from early July, when it was at US$65 per barrel.
Cayman’s Progressives-led coalition government has been critical of local fuel companies Rubis and Sol Petroleum. Planning and Infrastructure Minister Kurt Tibbetts warned gas and diesel distributors in August that they must turn over their operational cost data to government or face fuel price control legislation.
Mr. Tibbetts said during an address to the Legislative Assembly that a Public Utilities Commission Bill, seeking to require petrol distributors to reveal what they pay for bulk fuel shipped to the Cayman Islands and their markup on fuel, will be presented before the end of the year. That legislation is now expected to be presented to the Legislative Assembly in November.
Historically, fuel companies Esso and Chevron-Texaco, and more recently operators Sol Petroleum and Rubis, have refused to release such data, saying it is proprietary commercial information.
The locally operating fuel distributors have sought to downplay comparisons between U.S. prices and Cayman Islands fuel prices due to the massive differences in the two markets.