By Jason KUROSU
Gas prices have increased nationwide, a commonality in the summer months, although the effects may be felt most prominently in California and made much worse due to a recent fire at a Chevron refinery in Richmond, about 10 miles outside of San Francisco.
The fire occurred Monday, Aug. 6 as workers attempted to repair a leak in the refinery’s piping. No workers were killed, but parts of the refinery have since been shut down for an undetermined period of time. Since the Richmond refinery, California’s second largest, is one of 14 total refineries in California and produces 16% of California’s daily gas consumption, its partial closure is thought to be a key contributor to rising gas prices.
“That refinery produces 245,000 barrels per day,” said Gregg Laskoski, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy.com, a website that examines trends in gas prices throughout the nation. “Remove that potential from the marketplace and there’s no question the fire is having an effect on prices.”
Statewide prices for regular gas went from $3.86 on Aug. 7 to $4.10 on Aug. 14, making California, as of Tuesday, the third most expensive state on average in which to purchase gas, trailing only Hawaii and Illinois.
Perhaps exacerbating the rise in gas prices is that California cannot easily import gas from other states, due to California’s strict environmental standards. As a result, California’s remaining 13 refineries will need to produce more than usual.
“There’s a real question as to whether or not those refineries can ramp up production enough to make up the difference,” said Laskoski.
Laskoski believes the fire will also contribute to rising gas prices in nearby Oregon and Washington, states that Californian refineries supply. However, he provided some glimmer of hope. According to the Department of Energy’s recent edition of “This Week in Petroleum,” West Coast refineries are operating at a much higher percentage than East Coast refineries.
“When you take everything into consideration, it’s a good sign that West Coast refineries are operating better, despite everything that has happened.”