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Chevron refinery fire in Richmond may spur jump in gas prices

August 7, 2012 |  9:56 am

Expect prices at California pumps and the price of plane travel to increase in the near future because of a fire at a large refinery in the Bay Area.

According to officials at the Chevron refinery in Richmond, a diesel leak ignited and a blaze erupted Monday afternoon.

That refinery produces between 20% to 25% of the gasoline for Northern California, in addition to more than half the jet fuel used at all major Bay Area airports.

PHOTOS: Richmond refinery fire

Although the refinery's manager said it was too early to know the impact of the fire on prices at the pump, some experts are expecting increases soon.

"I think that rises in wholesale prices and retail prices are inevitable," said Gregg Laskoski with GasBuddy.com.

He went on to explain that because of California's rules for fuel, which requires different seasonal blends throughout the year, the state cannot simply import gas from neighboring regions "unless [the] governor somehow allows those restrictions to be eased," said Laskoski.

Officials at the Chevron refinery said in an update early Tuesday morning that the main fire had been extinguished, but a "small controlled burn" was underway "as a safety measure to reduce pressure."

Despite the controlled burn, the "shelter-in-place" order issued by health officials for Richmond, North Richmond and San Pablo was no longer in effect, health officials said. The order was lifted just after 11 p.m. Monday, about the same time refinery officials announced the blaze had been contained.

About 200 people complaining of respiratory problems had gone to the Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo by 11:30 p.m. Monday, according to hospital spokeswoman Remy Goldsmith. More patients continued to come into the hospital throughout the night.


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