Heating oil prices jumped by another 15 cents a gallon on Long Island last week as bitter cold descended on the region again.
The heating fuel used by two thirds of Nassau and Suffolk homeowners averaged $4.385 a gallon Monday at full service dealers, said the state Energy Research and Development Authority. That's a new heating season high, surpassing the $4.369 last Feb. 18.
The increase is 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.
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.
Experts have blamed high demand from the cold and tight supplies, in part from planned and unplanned outages at three Northeast refineries. Andy Lipow, president of the Houston consulting company Lipow Oil Associates LLC., says the problem is exacerbated by tight supplies of natural gas in this region which, he says, have forced some larger commercial and industrial users to temporarily switch to heating oil.
He foresees little relief for consumers. "The consumer is still going to be paying more because supplies are tight and I really do not see that easing until the weather moderates," he said.
The U.S. Department of Energy reported Wednesday that demand last week for the category of fuel known as distillate that includes diesel and nearly identical heating oil was 21 percent higher than a year earlier at 4.5 million barrels a day, while supplies nationally were 11 percent lower than last year at 116.2 million barrels.
But the department said higher heating oil and diesel prices in this country this winter are encouraging shippers to import the fuels from abroad. "When these shipments arrive they could help to temper U.S. prices by adding supply to the Northeast market," the department said.