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LI gas prices slip under $4 a gallon

Ali Altan, of Oyster Bay, fills a customer's

Ali Altan, of Oyster Bay, fills a customer's gas tank at Gulf gas station in Oyster Bay. (July 31, 2013) Credit: Chris Ware

Gasoline prices have slipped back under $4 a gallon on Long Island, after a three-week surge of almost 25 cents.

Regular averaged $3.985 in Nassau and Suffolk Wednesday, the AAA said.

The latest run-up in prices -- the result of higher crude oil prices and a host of refinery issues in the United States and Canada -- began July 6, when the Long Island average was $3.764. It peaked July 23 at $4.012, the motorist club said.

The pump price increases came in the midst of the summer travel season, when demand for gasoline traditionally is the year's strongest. Experts attribute the softening in prices to lower crude oil costs and the resolution of most refinery issues.

Andy Lipow, president of Houston consulting company Lipow Oil Associates LLC, said the one exception affecting this region is the Irving Oil refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. It is operating at reduced production rates because of the derailment and explosion July 6 of a train in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, that was carrying crude oil from North Dakota to the Irving refinery. While the refinery is more important to New England's supplies than New York's, Lipow said, the refinery has had to purchase gasoline from other sources to supply its customers. "Irving has bought some gasoline out of New York Harbor," he said. "That's how you get affected."

Lipow, who last week forecast the current flattening in pump prices, said Wednesday he expects little change at the pumps for the next few weeks, barring unforeseen international events or hurricanes that affect production, particularly in the U.S. Gulf region.

"My expectations are for pump prices to be stable to a very small decline -- maybe two or three cents a gallon," he said.

The AAA also issued a warning Wednesday about possible supply interruptions and price hikes from expensive crude oil, hurricanes or further refinery outages. "While the national average has declined recently, AAA continues to expect that prices will ultimately rise through the end of the busy summer driving season," the group said in a statement.

The U.S. benchmark grade of crude oil had risen from $93.69 a barrel June 21 to as high as $109 earlier this month, largely on fears of supply disruptions in the Suez Canal from unrest after the Egyptian military's takeover of the government.

It rose $1.95 Wednesday to settle at $105.03 on the New York Mercantile Exchange after the U.S. Department of Energy said supplies fell, and on word the nation's gross domestic product increased more than expected in the second quarter.

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