Fargo-Moorhead gas prices dipping; spot shortages of some grades possible
FARGO - Gas prices in North Dakota and Minnesota are falling in a typical end-of-summer pattern tied to lower consumption and a switchover at refineries to producing less-expensive winter-formula fuels, a spokeswoman for AAA Minnesota said.
But the eastern North Dakota fuel pipeline is seeing less supply, leading to spot shortages of certain grades of gas, the head of the North Dakota Petroleum Marketers Association and local fuel truck drivers said Wednesday.
"We've got to find some way to boost the volume coming into the state," said Mike Rud, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Marketers Association.
Rud said a Cenex refinery in Laurel, Mont., is shut down for maintenance. The Tesoro refinery in Mandan is "running full bore." And gasoline shipments to eastern North Dakota are down, probably because another refinery is down for maintenance, he said.
That's on top of the normal squeeze on diesel for the harvest, and demand to fuel work in the state's western Oil Patch.
"We're on the end of the pipeline, we don't have a lot of options in terms of supply," Rud said. "We just have to hope and pray that Tesoro keeps running."
Drivers are logging a lot of hours traveling greater distances to terminals and waiting longer in lines. The state has given hours of service waivers for drivers since July, Rud said.
On Wednesday, a line of fuel trucks was idling at the Magellan Pipeline Co. terminal in West Fargo.
"I know they're out quite a bit here," said Eugene Williams, a driver from West Fargo. "I don't know what's going on lately."
"Grand Forks has been out two months straight. That's why this line gets to be so long," said Jerry Mathiason, a trucker from Grand Forks.
Oil refineries switch the blend of fuels they make twice a year, said Gail Weinholzer, director of public affairs for AAA Minnesota.
They are clearing out their summer fuels now. Refineries may then do maintenance as they prepare to switch to winter fuel production, she said. Since winter blends are cheaper to make, prices should continue to dip, she said.
The pipeline is working properly, said Bruce Heine, a spokesman for Tulsa, Okla.-based Magellan Midstream Partners, which owns Magellan Pipeline.
"We have had strong demand in our system," Heine said. "There have been some times recently they (producers) will have a supply disruption of one grade of gasoline. Recently, that's 87 octane. Sometimes it's a few hours, sometimes longer."
He said if there is a disruption, there are usually alternative grades of gasoline available, or buyers can travel to other terminals.
According to Fargogasprices.com, which is part of GasBuddy.com, local prices ranged from $3.53 to $3.69, with the average at $3.58 from station prices reported by the public on Wednesday.
That's down from the $3.63 average seen Sunday, GasBuddy reported, but still nearly a dollar higher than last year at this time.
Patrick DeHaan, an analyst for GasBuddy, said retail gas prices should continue dipping, perhaps averaging $3.35 in some areas by Thanksgiving.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583