In its Short-Term Energy Outlook
, the U.S. Energy Information Administration says it expects the price of West Texas Intermediate crude oil to average about $106 per barrel in 2012, $5 per barrel higher than in its previous outlook and $11 per barrel higher than the average price last year.
EIA expects that on-highway diesel fuel retail prices, which averaged $3.84 per gallon in 2011, will average $4.15 per gallon in 2012, and $4.11 per gallon in 2013.
Supply disruptions in the Middle East and Africa contributed to a significant increase in world crude oil prices during February, the EIA notes. The agency has increased the forecast 2012 average cost of crude oil to U.S. refiners from $105 per barrel in last month's outlook to $115 per barrel. Constraints in transporting crude oil from the U.S. midcontinent region contribute to the expected continuing discount for WTI relative to other world crude oil prices. EIA expects WTI prices to remain relatively flat in 2013, averaging about $106 per barrel, while the U.S. refiner average cost of crude oil averages $110 per barrel.
EIA expects regular‐grade motor gasoline retail prices to average $3.79 per gallon in 2012 and $3.72 per gallon in 2013, compared with $3.53 per gallon in 2011. During the April through September summer driving season this year, prices are forecast to average about $3.92 per gallon with a peak monthly average price of $3.96 per gallon in May.
The warm weather this winter has resulted in natural gas working inventories that continue to set new record seasonal highs, with February 2012 ending at an estimated 2.44 trillion cubic feet, about 41% above the same time last year. EIA's average 2012 Henry Hub natural gas spot price forecast is $3.17 per million British thermal units, a decline of about $0.83 per MMBtu from the 2011 average spot price. EIA expects that Henry Hub spot prices will average $3.96 per MMBtu in 2013.