(Updates with comment from AAA spokesman in third paragraph.)
Jan. 31 (Bloomberg) -- Gasoline pump prices in the U.S. will rise more slowly in February than in the past two years, AAA the biggest U.S. motoring organization, said today.
The national average will increase next month as refineries shut units for seasonal maintenance, while not matching the 29- cent gain in prices a year ago, AAA said. Prices may climb temporarily above year-ago levels in the coming days, the group said. Refiners and blenders will also be preparing for the switch to summer-grade fuel.
“Gas prices are expected to rise steadily as many refineries temporarily close for scheduled turnaround maintenance and as the industry begins the complicated process of switching over to the summer blends of gasoline,” Avery Ash, an AAA spokesman in Washington, said in a statement.
Gasoline has to meet tighter air-quality standards in summer, which boosts the cost to produce the fuel.
Drivers in the Northeast will continue paying some of the highest prices after Hess Corp. closes in February its 70,000- barrel-a-day Port Reading, New Jersey, refinery, which accounts for 7.5 percent of gasoline produced in the region, according to AAA. The decline in output increases the risk of price spikes in the region if there are refinery or pipeline disruptions, the group said.
The average price for regular gasoline in the U.S. this spring will peak at a lower level than the 2012 high of $3.94 a gallon reached in April, AAA said.
Prices in January have averaged $3.32, the second-highest for the month after last January’s record of $3.37 a gallon.
--Editors: David Marino, Margot Habiby