Gas prices spiked 7 percent from a week ago as several regional refineries are tackling production issues, industry watchers said Thursday.
In the Chicago metropolitan area, gasoline prices rose 22 cents over the past week to an average of $3.28, according to GasBuddy.com.
"Quite a few if not a majority of refineries in Illinois are having production issues or regular maintenance, and it's creating quite a crimp in supply," said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy.com.
Regional refineries produce the "reformulated" cleaner summer gas required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The refineries affected include the ExxonMobil Joliet Refinery in Channahon and the Citgo Lemont Refinery, according to DeHaan.
The ExxonMobil refinery is in the process of returning to full capacity "following an incident that occurred on May 12," a spokeswoman said. "The non-impacted units of the refinery continue to operate. We are pursuing all opportunities to ensure our customers continue to receive a reliable supply of products," she said.
Officials at the Citgo Lemont Refinery and other area refineries including Phillips 66's Wood River Refinery and the BP Whiting Refinery could not be reached for comment. DeHaan and a spokeswoman at AAA said they haven't heard of production problems at the BP Whiting Refinery in Northwest Indiana.
AAA spokeswoman Beth Mosher noted that area gas prices have been steadily rising over the past month. Also contributing to higher gas prices is an increase in seasonal demand as the summer driving season kicks in, according to AAA.
However, prices are still not as high as last year.
"We've gotten used to seeing that $2 per gallon number," Mosher said. "We can't forget that just a year ago in the metro region we were approaching that $4 mark. Prices are much better."
Consumers should see a "mild summer," in terms of gas prices, Mosher said. "The wild card is always these refinery issues that pop up," she said.
The Chicago-area price surge contrasts the national average this week of $2.74 per gallon, which has remained in a holding pattern, analysts say. That's in part because oil prices, at around $60 per gallon, have remained relatively stable.
"Chicago is close to seeing its average peak," said GasBuddy's DeHaan. "Don't be surprised if by next week that upward (price) trend will reverse, and we'll see prices go back down."