Estimated Gasoline Price Breakdown and Margins
This page details the estimated gross margins for both refiners and distributors. The term "margin" includes both costs and profits. The margin data is based on the statewide average retail and wholesale price of gasoline for a single day of the week. It is not a seven-day average. The margin provided here is an indicator for the California market as a whole and not for any particular refiner or retailer of gasoline.
The Energy Commission cannot estimate profit margins based on average retail prices and observed wholesale market prices. This is because detailed data on refining and distribution costs, costs paid by approximately 10,000 retail locations, hundreds of wholesale marketers, jobbers, and distributors is not available.
Wholesale Gasoline Price: The average wholesale gasoline price is the average of 13 unbranded and 13 branded wholesale prices at various wholesale fuel loading racks around the state. This average price is for a single day. The wholesale gasoline price is calculated for the same day as EIA's weekly average gasoline price.
Branded and Unbranded Gasoline: Branded gasoline refers to fuel that is sold under a brand name (such as BP, Shell, Exxon, Chevron, and Valero). Branded gasoline will include proprietary fuel additives. Unbranded gasoline is not associated with a specific brand name, and is typically sold by single-station retail outlets, relatively small chain retailers that specialize is gasoline sales, and large supermarket chain stores (such as Costco and Safeway).
Distribution Costs, Marketing Costs, and Profits: The costs associated with the distribution from terminals to stations and retailing of gasoline, including but not limited to: franchise fees, and/or rents, wages, utilities, supplies, equipment maintenance, environmental fees, licenses, permitting fees, credit card fees, insurance, depreciation, advertising, and profit.
Crude Oil Cost: The daily market price of Alaska North Slope crude oil which is used as a proxy for this composite crude oil acquisition cost for California refineries.
Refinery Costs and Profits: The costs associated with refining and terminal operations, crude oil processing, oxygenate additives, product shipment and storage, oil spill fees, depreciation, purchases of gasoline to cover refinery shortages, brand advertising, and profits.
State Underground Storage Tank Fee: The state underground storage tank fee is currently 2.0 cents per gallon.
State and Local Sales Tax: An average state sales tax rate of 2.25% percent is used in the calculation of the distribution margin although the actual sales tax rate does vary throughout California.
State Excise Tax: The California state excise tax is currently 57.9 cents per gallon.
Federal Excise Tax: The federal excise tax is currently 18.4 cents per gallon.
Retail Gasoline Price: The weekly average price for California from the Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Data Last Updated: December 7, 2022.
Data Collection Information: Numbers are collected from the following sources to calculate report weekly. Reports are posted weekly on Wednesday or Thursday by 5 p.m.
- Retail Gasoline Price: U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) post weekly retail gasoline prices for Monday every Wednesday. (U.S. Gasoline and Diesel Retail Prices (eia.gov))
- Wholesale Gasoline Prices: California Energy Commission average 13 unbranded and 13 branded racks prices from Oil Price Information Services (OPIS) reports daily.
- Crude Oil Costs: Alaska Department of Revenue Tax Division post crude oil prices daily.
- California State Tax Rates for Fuels: Sales Tax Rates for Fuels (ca.gov)
- Federal Excise Tax: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) - U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)
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Refiner Margin (costs and profits) is calculated by subtracting the market price for crude oil from the wholesale price of gasoline. The result is a gross refining margin which includes the cost of operating the refinery as well as the profits for the refining company.
The price of crude oil is based on the daily market price for crude oil from the Alaska North Slope published by the Alaska Department of Revenue. The market price of crude oil also includes its own share of costs and profits. In the case of a vertically integrated oil company, the same company that owns and operates the oil field also owns and operates the refinery. Several vertically integrated oil companies operate in California including BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Shell.
For simplicity, the refining margins shown are based on producing one barrel of gasoline from one barrel of crude oil. No adjustments are made for other refined products.
Distribution margin (distribution costs, marketing costs, and profits) is calculated by subtracting the wholesale gasoline price (either branded or unbranded) and taxes (state sales tax, state excise tax, federal excise tax, and a state underground storage tank fee) from the weekly average retail sales price. The branded wholesale gasoline price is based on the average statewide branded refined "rack" price, information obtained from the Oil Price Information Service (www.opisnet.com). The rack price is the price paid at the point where tanker trucks load their fuel from a distribution terminal's loading rack. The unbranded price is also based on OPIS pricing information.
The distribution margin can be either positive or negative in value. A negative distribution margin implies that some gasoline is being sold at a loss. Similar to the refining margin, the distribution margin also includes the costs and profits of operating the retail gas station as well as various transportation and storage fees incurred once gasoline is moved from the bulk terminal to the retailer. Most branded franchisees purchase gasoline at a delivered price called the Dealer Tank Wagon price that is typically higher than the branded rack price. A retail-specific margin is not available at this time