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Prices climb again

After Richmond refinery fire, the cost of gas increases sharply statewide, locally

Posted: August 8, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 8, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Leland Davis, of Valencia, fills up his car's gas tank at the Arco station on Newhall Avenue in Newhall on Tuesday.

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Gas prices jumped about five cents a gallon Tuesday for regular unleaded in the Santa Clarita Valley and averaged about 17 cents a gallon more than the previous week as residents felt the effects of a refinery fire in Northern California.


Analysts said Tuesday morning the fire, which put one of the country’s biggest oil refineries out of commission for an unknown length of time, would push the price of regular gas above $4 a gallon on the West Coast, and the effects were already apparent Tuesday.


The fire in Richmond, which sent plumes of black smoke over the San Francisco Bay area, erupted Monday evening in the massive Chevron refinery about 10 miles northeast of San Francisco.


In the Santa Clarita Valley, prices averaged $3.90 a gallon for regular as of 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to gasbuddy.com. Prices last Monday averaged $3.73 a gallon.


The lowest price for gasoline was $3.74 and the highest price for regular gas was $3.97 a gallon as of 4:30 p.m.

Tuesday, according to gasbuddy.com. Tuesday morning, gas prices had ranged from a low of $3.69 a gallon to a high of $3.95 a gallon, according to gasbuddy.com.


California’s average price Tuesday for a gallon of regular gasoline was $3.86.


As of Tuesday night, the lowest price for midgrade gasoline in the Santa Clarita Valley was $3.89, with the highest priced at $4.05. For premium the lowest was $3.99, and the highest $4.17.


The West Coast is particularly vulnerable to spikes in gasoline prices because it’s not well-connected to the refineries along the Gulf Coast, where most of the country’s refining capacity is located, analysts say.


The Chevron refinery is particularly big and important to the West Coast market, said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at Oil Price Information Service.


It produces about 150,000 barrels of gasoline a day — 16 percent of the region’s daily gasoline consumption of 963,000 barrels, he said.


With inventories of gasoline in the region already low compared with the rest of the country, pump prices in California and elsewhere on the West Coast will soon average more than $4 a gallon, Kloza said.


Chevron spokesman Lloyd Avram said he did not have an update on when the refinery could be restarted and declined to comment on what kind of impact the shutdown might have on the gasoline market.


“Gas is like water; you need it to live,” Gaby Gomez of Stevenson Ranch said while pumping nearly $97 worth of gas into her Cadillac Escalade around 1 p.m. Tuesday.


Aaron Ramos, a Sylmar teenager who works part-time jobs locally and in Burbank, said about 25 percent of his paychecks go to pay for gas lately.


“It’s horrible,” Ramos said. “I’ve been trying to not think about prices going up.”


Although increased gas prices don’t really affect retired Valencia resident Leland Davis, he said he sympathized with younger people who need gas to get to work. He said the refinery fire just sounded like an excuse to ratchet up gas prices.


“Any excuse they get, they’re going to pump it up,” Davis said of gas prices.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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