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Metro Vancouver gas prices set to top North American record

West Coast supply problems are leading to record gas prices in Vancouver, says one expert.
If the latest forecast proves accurate, someone filling up a 50-litre gas tank in Vancouver Thursday will pay an average of $43 more than someone in Toronto. 

The price for a litre of gasoline in Metro Vancouver and Victoria is set to hit an all-time record this week, climbing to 239.9 cents per litre Thursday. 

The forecast, released Tuesday by the gas price prediction website Gas Wizard, would cement Vancouver and Victoria with the unenviable title as North America’s most expensive city for gasoline.

The Metro area set the previous record on June 6, 2022, when the price for a regular litre of gasoline hit an average of 236.9 per litre.

Werner Antweiler, an energy economist at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business, said gasoline prices are skyrocketing up and down the West Coast of North America as supply tightens.

“It’s all local. It has nothing to do with the international oil markets,” said Antweiler. “It’s all along the West Coast, Washington to Oregon to California.” 

Global oil and gas prices surged after Russia invaded Ukraine in February of this year. By late summer, international oil prices had eased. At one point, gas prices had remained well below $2 per litre across Metro Vancouver, Vancouver Island and the Fraser Valley. In other parts of the province, the price was even lower.

In the lead-up to the Labour Day long weekend, gas stations in Burnaby and Richmond saw a litre of gas drop to 182.9 at some stations, according to the website GasBuddy. 

But in little more than a week, the price of a litre of gas had shot up 40 cents at many locations across the Lower Mainland and the Capital region.

If Gas Wizard’s forecast once again proves accurate, that means someone filling up a 50-litre gas tank in Vancouver Thursday will pay an average of $119.95, $43 more than someone in Toronto. 

Elsewhere in the province, the price per litre of gas is expected to be slightly lower Thursday, with Gas Wizard forecasting an average of roughly 192 cents per litre in Kelowna and Kamloops, and 185.9 cents per litre in Prince George.

A West Coast supply problem

The high prices now seen in Vancouver are part of interruptions in regional supply, said Antweiler. 

The economist pointed to the Sturgeon Refinery outside Edmonton, Alta., which from Aug. 8 to Sept. 23 closed for scheduled maintenance, inspections, renovations and upgrades.

At the same time, four refineries shut down in California, including one unplanned at the Chevron Richmond Refinery after it reportedly experienced power problems, reported the Santa Rosa Press Democwrat Tuesday.

Meanwhile, there have been other maintenance shutdowns at Washington State’s Ferndale refinery and the Olympic pipeline, which serves refineries in the Pacific Northwest. That has meant oil that could otherwise flow north is staying in local markets. 

Even a fire that led to two fatalities earlier this month at an Oregon, Ohio, refinery is having an effect on prices out west, said Antweiler. 

It’s all coming at a time when U.S. crude oil production is down over a million barrels a day across the U.S. compared to pre-pandemic levels, added the UBC energy expert.

“It’s all conspiring to create a spike in prices,” he said.