After months of reports that gas prices could be headed up, Frederick and Maryland in general have begun to see a rise.
And they’re likely headed even higher before they start to come down again.
Frederick’s prices are up 12 cents from a month ago, averaging $2.33 a gallon, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.
That’s lower than Maryland’s statewide average of $2.35, up 11 cents from a month ago.
But even with the increase, gasoline prices are lower than last year, with Frederick prices down 15 cents a gallon and statewide prices 14 cents lower than a year ago.
And both local and statewide prices today are lower than the national average of $2.39 a gallon.
It’s too early to say whether the higher prices will affect travel, said Christine Delise, a spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic.
But a drop in travel may be unlikely, since prices are trending lower than they were last year, she said.
The rise in prices is likely a combination of several factors, Delise said. Crude oil has been trading higher since the beginning of the year, and an OPEC agreement to cut production also began in 2019, she said.
This time of year is also when oil refineries prepare to change from producing winter blend gasoline to summer blend, a less volatile, cleaner-burning mix designed to meet Environmental Protection Agency requirements.
The changeover involves maintenance that can include inspecting, replacing, and updating equipment, said Patrick DeHaan, an analyst with the industry website GasBuddy.
Prices usually start to rise in mid-February, and continue to rise through April or May, he said.
DeHaan expects Maryland prices to peak between $2.55 and $2.85 a gallon, but said how high prices will ultimately go will come down to factors that we don’t know about yet.
They include international issues such as relations with China and North Korea, and the situation in Venezuela.
The recent increase in the Mid-Atlantic region has also been affected by a February fire at a refinery in Delaware City, Delaware, DeHaan said.
There have been several other refinery failures in the Northeast, leading to utilization of refineries on the East Coast to be at only 64 percent. The number is usually around 85 percent or higher, DeHaan said.
He said prices will likely peak around Memorial Day, then drop a bit.
That’s the unofficial start of the summer travel season, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Delise said.
In 2018, she said, average prices rose to a high of $2.99 per gallon in Maryland on Memorial Day weekend, then dropped throughout the rest of the year to a low of $2.24 per gallon on Dec. 31.