Temporary oil refinery closure causes high gas prices in Mountain West

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People filling up with gas at a gas station in Orem, UT. The Suncor petroleum refinery located in Colorado closed for repairs in December 2022, impacting Utah’s gas prices (Anna Hair).

The Suncor petroleum refinery located in Colorado closed for repairs in December 2022, impacting Utah’s gas prices.

Julian Paredes, AAA public relations specialist for the Mountain West region, said the Suncor oil refinery in Colorado shut down due to damages from a winter storm. Paredes said this was a big contributor to the increase of gas prices. “There are also fewer pipelines in Utah so that makes it difficult to make up for that loss of supply,” Paredes said.

Though the refinery is set to reopen soon, hopefully bringing down gas prices in the Mountain West, Paredes mentioned that oil prices have dropped pretty significantly as well. “That’ll help decrease gas prices everywhere,” Paredes said.

A screen at a gas station in Orem, UT. The Suncor petroleum refinery located in Colorado closed for repairs in December 2022, impacting Utah’s gas prices (Anna Hair).

Dr. John Hedengren, a professor in the chemical engineering department at BYU, said that though there is an increase in crude oil, that does not necessarily mean cheaper gasoline because the oil lacks refining capacities. He mentioned that there are refineries in North Salt Lake, but nothing that can produce the same amount that the Colorado Suncor refinery was producing.

When talking about the Colorado refinery, Hedengren said, “If they start up in March, then prices should come down with the increase in refined products and the oversupply of crude oil.”

Dr. Morris Argyle, an associate professor in the chemical engineering department at BYU, said gas prices in the Mountain West are typically higher than other places.

“Prices are almost always higher here in the Mountain West due in part to additional transportation costs over longer distances by truck and through small pipelines from the smaller refineries in the region,” Argyle said. “These supply and demand economics have been negatively impacted by the Suncor refinery shutdown.”

With the hopes that gas prices will soon be decreasing, Utahns can turn to other ways to save on gas in the meantime. Reagan Dugger, a BYU pre-communications student shared some of the ways she and her husband save on gas.

“Me and my husband take the public transit a lot. They have a lot of days that you can travel for free on them,” Dugger said. She added that they try to take the bus or train up to Salt Lake instead of driving their car.

Paredes also shared some tips on how to save money on gas. “Things like sticking to the speed limit, making sure your tires are properly inflated and using apps to find the cheapest gas in your area. All of those things really will add up and help you out,” Paredes said.

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