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Gasoline and diesel prices expected to increase

Published by , Senior Editor
Hydrocarbon Engineering,

National average motor gasoline and diesel prices in 2020 were the lowest since 2016: US$2.17/gal. for gasoline and US$2.55/gal. for diesel, according to the US Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) ‘Gasoline and Diesel Fuel Update’.

EIA expects that economic recovery and greater demand for transportation fuels will lead to higher prices for gasoline and diesel in 2021 and 2022. In its latest ‘Short-Term Energy Outlook’, EIA expects regular gasoline retail prices to average US$2.42/gal. in 2021 and US$2.43/gal. in 2022, and on-highway diesel prices to average US$2.71/gal. in 2021 and US$2.74/gal. in 2022.

Demand for transportation fuels fell in 2020 primarily because of responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the vaccines for COVID-19 become more widely distributed in 2021, EIA expects the effects of the pandemic on liquids fuels consumption to moderate.

EIA forecasts rising demand for gasoline and diesel in 2021 and 2022. EIA expects annual average motor gasoline consumption, which fell by an estimated 13% in 2020, to remain lower than 2019 levels through 2022. EIA forecasts light-duty vehicle miles travelled will increase as both economic activity and employment increase in 2021 and 2022. Long-term trends in improving vehicle fleet fuel economy will continue to put downward pressure on US gasoline demand.

For distillate fuel oil demand (much of which is consumed as diesel), EIA expects 2022 consumption to be nearly equal to 2019 levels. Annual distillate fuel oil consumption fell by an estimated 8% in 2020.

EIA forecasts that crude oil prices will remain lower than 2019 levels through 2022, contributing to lower retail transportation fuel prices compared with the 2019 average. Because a barrel contains 42 gal., each dollar-per-barrel change in the price of Brent crude oil tends to result in a 2.4-cents-per-gallon change in the price of petroleum fuels (all else remaining equal).

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