Unleaded regular gasoline was selling for $3.099 a gallon Monday at this Loaf & Jug convenience store at Pikes Peak Avenue and South Circle Drive.

Gas prices shot up by more than 20 cents a gallon over the last week in Colorado Springs, a jolt that a AAA Colorado spokesman attributed more to an ongoing global demand for oil and gas and not just last month’s temporary closure of the Suncor Energy refinery near Denver.

“It’s not all Suncor, although that news certainly doesn’t help,” said Skyler McKinley, AAA Colorado’s regional director of public affairs.

In any case, McKinley said, motorists should expect gas prices to continue to climb over the next several weeks.

A gallon of regular unleaded gasoline averaged $3.039 on Monday in Colorado Springs, up 21.2 cents from $2.827 last week, according to prices tracked by AAA, the nationwide travel organization.

Healthy economies in Colorado, the U.S. and globally have driven the demand for oil and gas and helped trigger the recent spike in pump prices, McKinley said. Up to the recent increase, prices had been drifting lower over the last few months after record highs that approached $5 a gallon in June.

“We’ve seen continued economic activity out of a pretty strong holiday season,” he said. “Folks are still out and about, there’s relatively high demand for gas. Folks, while they might be fearing a recession, are still fully employed.”

The Chinese economy, meanwhile, is in various stages of reopening after lockdowns because of COVID-19 cases, which increases the global demand for gas and pushes prices upward, McKinley said.

Nationally, average prices Monday stood at $3.28 a gallon, up 6.4 cents from a week ago. In Colorado, the average price was lower at $3.085, yet 17 cents higher than last week. Denver’s average was $3.024, a 19.9-cent increase from a week earlier.

“I suspect Colorado is going to increase much more quickly than neighboring states and much more quickly than the national average,” McKinley said. “But there’s upward pressures emanating across the country right now as a function of the global oil market.”

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The closure of the Suncor refinery in Commerce City, north of Denver, also is contributing to the gas price increase in Colorado Springs and statewide, McKinley said.

Canadian-based Suncor closed its refinery in late December, and attributed the shutdown to equipment damage at the facility from extreme, below-zero temperatures that hit the area last month. Suncor said the refinery isn’t expected to resume normal operations until late in the first quarter, which would put it on track to re-start in late March.

Suncor’s refinery is the only one in the state, and supplies about 40% of the gasoline used by Colorado motorists, according to the Colorado Oil & Gas Association, an industry trade group.

Though the refinery was closed in late December, the shutdown’s full impact won’t be felt for several more weeks — and gas prices will continue to climb over that time because of the reduced gas supply, McKinley said.

“To some degree, you’ve probably seen a very slight impact of the Suncor shutdown, but it takes a couple weeks for gas to move around the system,” he said. “Starting about now is when we’re going to notice it.”

It’s difficult to say how much higher prices will rise, McKinley said; a lot will depend on access to alternate suppliers and to products produced by refineries in Wyoming, among other factors, he said.

And yet, McKinley said, “prices certainly will rise as a function of that (closure) into March, and the Front Range is going to get hit the hardest.”

Even as the Suncor shutdown is bad news, gas prices generally are as high as they are right now because Colorado and the nation still have strong economies.

“People still have spending money, they’re still driving around, they have a fairly rosy economic outlook. That is not what central bankers (the Federal Reserve) would have told us to expect at this point in 2023. So, high gas prices, in that way, relay a little bit of good news, even though, again, we’re all paying more.”

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