Family and friends arriving in Florida to escape winter weather and visit us may find a few gasoline stations without fuel, particularly in Central Florida near Orlando.

“There has been a somewhat imperfect storm of events that have led to wholesale tightness in fuel, and in some cases, closed stations or at least sporadic outages, particularly for the unbranded gasoline c-stores like 7-Eleven and Circle-K,” said Gregg Laskoski, senior petroleum analyst for

Prices, particularly for unbranded gasoline in Florida, have lifted very quickly. Here’s why:

Supply: Florida is working with ‘hand-to-mouth’ gasoline inventories right now. The state is transitioning to ‘summer blend’ gasoline and that process still has another 40 days to go. At the same time, there have been reports (unconfirmed) of a few cargoes of gasoline that were delayed moving from Houston or New Orleans to Tampa due to fog in the Gulf of Mexico.

Imports of gasoline from offshore sources have continued to be very low, and that may continue into the second quarter. Freight rates for moving Texas/La. gas are still very high thanks to the scarcity of American-flagged Jones’ Act vessels.

Ethanol: Supply of ethanol is a problem throughout the East and Gulf Coasts, and the further one goes from the Midwest, the higher the price, and the scarcer the ethanol becomes. The price for ethanol in Florida has been in the neighborhood of $3.75 gal. That has added 6-7cts gal to the price of gasoline, whereas as the year began, ethanol probably helped cheapen the wholesale price by a few pennies. Trains bring most of the ethanol to Florida and there has been a backlog of trains arriving with ethanol in the state, particularly when you get below Orlando.

Logistics: Petroleum transports have been moving jet fuel from Cape Canaveral or Jacksonville or Orlando to Tampa. Some of these trucks are the same trucks normally used to move gasoline from terminals to stations, so trucking has been a huge issue.

Demand: The country finds a flat demand trend, but this is probably the busiest gasoline demand month in Florida in the last six years, due to the one of the harshest winters in N. America in the past 100 years. Strong demand should prevail until the week after Easter.

Unbranded gas availability: Most of the logistics are dominated by major oil companies, so branded stations - - Chevron, Citgo, ExxonMobil, etc. - - have generally had supply. Unbranded companies, including Circle K, 7-Eleven, and others, have had to scramble to find finished gasoline, or gasoline blendstock and ethanol. So, the outages may impact the non-brand names for gasoline and we may see the prices of some major brands at less than the price quotes of big box companies (i.e., Sam’s Club) and unbranded chains, (i.e, Raceway).