Refinery fire affecting gas prices
Cost at pump going up
Drivers in Porterville are paying more at the pump because of a fire at one of the largest oil refineries on the West Coast.
Robert Taylor, a gas distributor in Porterville, estimates that all customers will have to pay about 20 cents extra for their gas.
“There’s a bit of a supply issue. Fewer refineries [will] supply our gas consumption,” said Taylor.
As of Thursday, the Automobile Club of Southern California pegged the average gas price for an unleaded gallon of gasoline in Tulare County at $3.88. That is up a dime from when the refinery fire occurred on Monday.
Many places in California and some in Porterville are already reporting gas at more than $4 a gallon. At the local Chevron station, unleaded gas was selling for $4.29 a gallon.
Juan Macias, an occasional Chevron customer from Delano, believes the increase will hurt drivers.
“[It will] definitely make it a lot harder to travel and make it a lot harder on pockets,” said Macias.
According to Taylor, the gas trucks will have to drive farther to deliver the fuel.
“There’s plenty of fuel, but the guys will have to work a little harder to get it to Porterville,” Taylor explained. He added that the spike is of an indeterminate amount of time and will last until things are fixed.
Some experts expect the disruption in production to last for weeks and push prices beyond $4 a gallon.
“It’ll depend on Chevron getting their facility repaired,” said Patrick DeHaan of GasBuddy.com. “The increases will be felt in California, Oregon and Washington, with perhaps some residual issues in Arizona and other nearby states.”
The Richmond refinery produces 16% of the region’s daily gasoline supply. The fire knocked out a unit that makes a specialized blend of cleaner burning gasoline that satisfies air quality laws in California, Oregon and Washington.
Sean Comey, a spokesman for Chevron, said a myriad factors were pushing gas prices higher, not just the loss of one unit at the refinery.
“There are a variety of economic conditions like rising crude and ethanol costs, which also affect what consumers pay at the pump,” he said.
Comey said the refinery continues to produce gasoline, diesel and jet fuel but in reduced amounts.
Experts said inventories of the cleaner burning gas already were low. With the refinery’s output in question for what could be weeks, analysts say prices could reach $4 a gallon as soon as Friday.
Some analysts believe other refineries in California could make up for the shortfall, if Chevron’s capacity remains limited by the fire.
Tradition Energy analyst Addison Armstrong said California refineries have been producing about 6 million barrels a week, down from 7 million a week last month.
“That should be enough capacity to make up for the loss of output from Richmond,” he said.
Macias’ girlfriend Vernelle Cantorna, also of Delano, pointed out that the spike is unwelcome.
“Gas is expensive enough as it is. No one likes paying more for something so important,” said Cantorna.
The couple, who were traveling with their young son, added that they only came to Chevron because they were almost out of gas and it was the closest station.