California Gas Prices Jump After Refinery Fire, Flaring Incidents

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A recent fire at a Phillips 66 refinery in the Los Angeles area and a series of flaring incidents at Chevron's Richmond refinery have contributed to a rise in the cost of gasoline in California, according to AAA.

The average price of a gallon of unleaded gas in the state is up 10 cents from a week ago and now stands at $3.43. AAA spokesman Michael Blasky said that prices could keep going up.

Chevron's Richmond Refinery Flaring Incidents at Highest Level in More Than a Decade
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"I would imagine to see prices go up at least 5 to 10 cents more over the next couple of weeks," Blasky said. "As long as they're having production issues, I would imagine the prices will keep going up."

When refineries in the state have significant malfunctions and need to restart their operations, the supply of gasoline becomes tighter.

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Blasky calls California a fuel island: With the state's strict environmental requirements for gasoline, there aren't other supply chains to make up the production difference.

"We can't go somewhere else and get the same kind of quality oil that is required in California," Blasky said. "You're just going to automatically see suppliers or gas stations start to incorporate the higher prices into their pump price."

The price rise comes amid a national increase in the cost of gas. The average cost of a gallon of gasoline across the country is up 8 cents since last week, according to AAA.

Last week's fire in Carson in Los Angeles County shut down a crude processing unit at Phillips 66.

There have been five flaring incidents at Chevron's Richmond refinery so far this year, the most recent occurring last Sunday.

The number of flaring incidents in 2018 at Chevron's Richmond refinery was at its highest level in 12 years, according to data the Bay Area Air Quality Management District released Monday.

The refinery experienced nine flaring events last year, more than any other refinery in the Bay Area. That's the highest number of such incidents since 2006, when the Chevron refinery experienced 21 flaring events.

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Ted Goldberg contributed to this report.

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