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While Wyoming once had 30 active drilling rigs in the state similar to this one, all gas rigs had fled the state and only four to five active oil rigs remained as of May 2020. Courtesy photo

CASPER – Oil prices have been on the road to recovery for several months after crashing last spring in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and a global price war.

But consumers could start to feel pinched when buying gas soon.

Gas prices in Wyoming have climbed to $2.31 per gallon, as of Monday. The average national price of gasoline reached $2.46 per gallon this week. That’s more expensive than a week, a month and a year ago, according to an analysis by AAA.

Energy analysts point to rising crude prices, slightly more travel and greater optimism about the COVID-19 vaccines, as reasons for the gas price hike.

“Consumers can expect to continue paying more to fill up this month, potentially up to 10 cents more a gallon, depending on how high crude goes,” Jeanette Casselano McGee, a spokesperson for AAA, said in a statement. “If demand grows, that will further fuel pump price increases.”

For Wyoming consumers, low oil prices over the past year have translated into cheap gasoline, with average prices around the state even dropping below $2 per gallon last spring.

In 2020, gasoline retail prices averaged $2.18 per gallon nationwide.

West Texas Intermediate, a U.S. benchmark for oil, exceeded $58 a barrel on Monday. That’s about 40% higher than six months ago.

Wyoming may start to see its oil and gas rig count inch above the single digits soon, with new drilling activity revived.

That’s positive for the state’s operators and overall economy; Wyoming continues to rely heavily on energy production for economic activity and revenue.

As of Friday, Wyoming counted five rigs, 18 less than a year ago, according to Baker Hughes.

A report published last month by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, a non-partisan data center, predicted the annual average production of crude would decline to 11.1 million barrels per day this year, before increasing to 11.5 million barrels per day in 2022.

In the meantime, Wyoming motorists can likely expect to pay a few more bucks at the pump.

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