A record-setting heat wave has Maricopa residents pinching pennies on monthly electricity bills and now on gas fill-ups too, according to an industry expert.

Jason Plotke pumps gas at the Circle K on John Wayne Parkway and Smith Enke Road on Aug. 10, 2023. [Monica D. Spencer]
Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis with GasBuddy, said people around the country have seen rising gas prices after OPEC slashed oil production. But Maricopa residents can blame the uptick on the suffocating heat as it takes a toll on oil refineries.

“We’ve had some sporadic refinery issues and, as a result of the tremendous heat wave we’ve seen in the last few weeks, Texas refineries have struggled,” De Haan told InMaricopa.

Refineries in southern California and Texas pump gasoline into Arizona. Both states experienced relentless heat waves this summer.

“The inside of a refinery is tremendously toasty, plus they are outside and exposed to these extreme temperatures,” De Haan said. “Cooling units aren’t as efficient in extreme temperatures, which may require refineries to run less product.”

Coupled with power outages from summer storms or an unreliable power grid, this can result in a delayed restart at the refineries.

“If you lose power for even just a couple moments, it can send refineries into a multi-day process to get restarted,” De Haan said. “It’s not like turning a light on. There’s a lot of delicate processes that have to be followed to bring it back online.”

This can further stymie oil production, leading to higher gas prices.

In Pinal County, that combination resulted in the second-highest average price per gallon in the state Thursday at $4.05, according to AAA. That’s about 22 cents over the national average.

A screenshot of average gas prices on Aug. 10, 2023. [Source: AAA]
De Haan said consumers should anticipate a bumpy ride over the next few weeks.

“We’re still navigating whether or not we’re going to see hurricanes, if OPEC is going to further cut production,” he said. “There’s still a lot of things that could change in the coming weeks.”

For some, relief can’t come soon enough.

While filling his tank at a Circle K station in Maricopa, Apex Motor Club President Jason Plotke said he was “scared to look” at the total cost afterwards.

“It’s frustrating as a driver,” Plotke said. “I commute three times a week from Scottsdale to Maricopa and it’s a 90-mile round trip. It’s a lot of money.”