Times-Call (Longmont)

Suncor’s refinery shutdown causing gas prices to rise

Average price of a gallon of fuel rose by $1.39 to $4.10

- By Noelle Phillips nphillips@denverpost.com

Gas prices in Colorado and the Rocky Mountain region continue to climb as the Suncor Energy refinery in Commerce City undergoes repairs following its late-december shutdown.

The average retail price of gasoline increased 51% in Colorado and 27% in the Rocky Mountain region between the end of December and Feb. 20, according to a U.S. Energy Informatio­n Administra­tion report released Tuesday. The average price of a gallon of gas in Colorado rose by $1.39 to $4.10 as of Feb. 20, the report said.

On Tuesday, AAA showed Colorado gas prices ranked among the highest in the country, averaging $4.05 a gallon. The national average on Tuesday was $3.36 per gallon.

Suncor’s trouble began on the evening of Dec. 21 when temperatur­es plummeted during an extreme cold spell. The subzero weather caused a malfunctio­n that rippled across the plant and forced the company to cease production.

The energy company restarted one of its three Commerce City production plants earlier this month but that hasn’t slowed rising gas prices. The company has said it plans to be fully operationa­l by the end of March.

Suncor’s refinery, the only one in Colorado, refines 103,000 barrels of oil per day when it’s running at its peak, the U.S. Energy Informatio­n Administra­tion said. Since the closure, gasoline is being trucked into Colorado from refineries in other western states or pulled through pipelines from other gas-producing regions in the United States.

Rocky Mountain inventorie­s of gasoline and diesel fuel started the year well below the fiveyear average, the administra­tion’s report said. Those low inventorie­s are creating more uncertaint­y as Colorado needs more fuel from other areas.

The higher prices also may stimulate increased production in Utah and Wyoming to compensate for the loss of Suncor’s production and to meet the demand for gasoline in Colorado.

Colorado is the most populous state in the Rocky Mountain region and accounted for 41% of all gasoline sales in the region in 2021. The state also accounted for 25% of jet fuel and diesel sales, according to the Energy Informatio­n Administra­tion’s refinery capacity report.

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