A fire at one of the largest refineries in the U.S. will quickly drive gas prices at the pump over $4 per gallon, according to analysts.
The flames, which sent many locals to hospitals with breathing problems, nudge the pump price over the $4 a gallon within a week, at least on the West Coast, according to an San Francisco Chronicle report published Tuesday.
Thick plumes of black smoke hovered over the San Francisco Bay area, after the major refinery fire erupted Monday evening within the behemoth Chevron refinery near San Francisco.
The flames were extinquished early Tuesday, however the plant was conducting a controlled burn to rid the area of toxic and flammable vapors.
The West Coast proximity to Gulf refineries makes the area heavily dependent on Chevron. The U.S. has not built a refinery in about 30 years due to labor costs of construction and environmental concerns.
According to Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at Oil Price Information Service, Chevron's refinery is has a strong bearing on the market. It produces about 150,000 barrels of gasoline a day - 16 percent of the West Coast's daily gasoline consumption of 963,000 barrels, according to Kloza.
The supply of gasoline in the region was low compared with the rest of the country when the fire broke out at Chevron, a sure sign that pump prices in California and the West Coast will soon average more than $4 per gallon, Kloza said.
The problem began around 6:15 p.m. Monday, when a a vapor leak of hydrocarbons similar to diesel, was detected, said Heather Kulp, a Chevron spokeswoman.
"At approximately 6:30 p.m., the volume increased and personnel evacuated the area," she said at a news conference Tuesday. "The hydrocarbon vapor then ignited and a fire occurred."