Heating oil prices jump 7 cents a gallon

Heating oil has risen by 38.6 cents since Heating oil has risen by 38.6 cents since the recent low point of $3.999 on Nov. 11 and the new average is 11.1 cents higher than a year earlier. Photo Credit: Newsday/Audrey C. Tiernan

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Some Long Islanders are getting the bill this week for January's cold weather: Heating oil jumped by more than 7 cents a gallon from last week, the biggest weekly increase during a heating season in more than three years.

And the price could head higher, experts say, until new supplies of fuel arrive next month.

The heating fuel used by about two-thirds of Nassau and Suffolk homeowners and businesses averaged $4.23 a gallon at full-service dealers on the Island Monday, according to the state Energy Research and Development Authority. The average was $4.16 a week earlier.

This week's increase was the largest since Oct. 10, 2011. It's likely to be felt by anyone getting a delivery this week unless, as do many Long Islanders, they have fixed- or capped-price contracts at prices lower than this week's market price.

The culprits for the rising price are high demand from the cold, and tight supplies from planned and unplanned outages at three Northeast refineries, experts said. "We're missing a lot of barrels," said energy analyst John Kilduff, a founding partner of Again Capital LLC, a Manhattan-based hedge fund.

The U.S. Department of Energy said Thursday that East Coast inventories of the type of oil used on Long Island fell by 14.7 percent last week from a year earlier, to 22.1 million barrels.

Prices also are rising on futures markets as traders anticipate still-tighter supplies from continued cold weather, experts said. "I think our good friends on the New York Mercantile Exchange are just kind of factoring in that supplies could get a little tight by about this time next week," said chief executive Kevin Rooney of the Oil Heat Institute of Long Island, a trade group.

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Dealers nowadays keep relatively small amounts of oil in stock, said Rooney -- maybe four or five days' supply Islandwide -- so that changes in futures prices will reach consumers quickly.

Experts said prices could rise still further next week but that shipments from abroad were expected to arrive in early February to help bolster supplies.

Natural-gas futures also have risen, but utilities tend to keep larger supplies. Spokeswoman Wendy Ladd of National Grid said it does not expect the cold weather and rising futures prices to affect customers' bills this month.The record price for oil during the heating season was $4.369 a gallon, set Feb. 18.

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