Richmond and Aiken County residents are paying the lowest prices in months for fueling up their vehicles, a trend that could continue the remainder of the year, according to industry analysts.
Average prices for a gallon of regular gas in South Carolina and Georgia are $3.127 and $3.33, respectively, according to Gasbuddy.com. Both prices are under the national average of $3.427, and the lowest each state has seen since March.
Gas prices in individual counties have also dropped, in many cases much lower than state averages. In Richmond County, gas stations average around $3.234 a gallon. Several gas stations are selling fuel for $3.18 a gallon, and a Costco gas station is selling a gallon of regular for $3.06.
Across the river in Aiken County, the average price is $3.092. One Sam’s Club gas station in Aiken is below the $3 mark, at $2.98 a gallon.
The price decrease is linked to high levels of oil production by the United States, which has increased supply over current seasonal demand, Gasbuddy.com Chief Oil Analyst Tom Kloza said. Kloza said refinery inventories expanded to a four-month high in July as the U.S. produced 3.1 million more barrels of crude oil per day than it did in 2011, which contributed to that surplus.
Winter blend gas is also cheaper than summer formulas, Kloza added, which could further bring down prices.
“Demand will drop after the Labor Day holiday, which typically leads to more temperate market prices… Also, you have high production numbers. Both of those combined to drop us down by about 25 cents since June,” Kloza said. “I predict you won’t see the same kind of gas prices you saw in 2010 unless a major economic shakeup happens. Down in the South, I imagine you’ll be the beneficiaries of that, especially considering your proximity to the Gulf Coast.”
These gas prices should continue through the winter, and both Georgia and South Carolina residents should expect gas prices under $3 a gallon as the months continue.
“It’s going to be leveling off through the rest of the year,” AAA Spokesman Mark Jenkins said. “We’ve have no concern of shortage and plenty of supply, which keeps prices lower. It’s very unlikely we’ll be seeing a dramatic upswing in price anytime soon. I’m sure that will be welcome news.”
Prices will increase when spring approaches, as demand and refinery production costs begin to rise again, but Kloza said the changes in prices could be less severe in the coming years as high levels of production continue.
“When spring comes and more people need gas and refinery formulas for production change, the price will increase again,” Kloza said. “But I think the peaks will be shorter and the valleys much deeper in the future.”