Tight Supplies of Gasoline Expected This Summer: EIA

Despite the recent rise in U.S. gasoline imports, motor fuel inventories will likely stay tight for the rest of the summer and pump prices will remain high, the government's top energy forecaster told Congress today.

"Gasoline inventories are expected to remain tight throughout the summer, which will keep pressure on gasoline prices and likely result in higher margins and retail prices than those seen last summer," Guy Caruso, head of the Energy Information Administration, testified at a Senate hearing on the effects of gasoline costs on businesses.

U.S. gasoline imports have soared recently, reaching more than 1.6 million barrels per day during the third week of May and more than 1.5 million bpd the following week, and will help to build inventories, Caruso said.

"(Gasoline) imports at or above roughly 1.2 million barrels per day are likely to be needed to avoid persistent pressure on gasoline prices," Caruso told the Senate Small Business Committee.

U.S. gasoline supply has been affected more than usual by oil refinery outages, according to Caruso. Refineries are operating at less than 90% capacity, the lowest level for this time of year in 15 years.

The EIA is forecasting the national price for gasoline will average $3.05 a gallon during the summer driving season, up 21 cents from last summer.