Gas prices likely to spike in coming months

EMERYVILLE, Calif. (KGO) -- Gas prices may spike in the near future after enjoying a long dip for the past year.

The blast at the Exxon Mobil Corp. facility fire in Torrence is really going to have an impact. It produces ten percent of the gas in California.

The Exxon Mobil refinery is about 20 miles south of downtown Los Angeles and covers 750 acres, employs over a thousand people and processes an average of 155,000 barrels of crude oil per day. It produces 1.8 billion gallons of gasoline per year, which accounts for about 8.3 percent of the state's total refining capacity.

There is also the strike that has shut down the Tesoro plant in Martinez.

Tesoro refinery in Northern California - which accounts for about 9.2 percent of the state's total refining capacity - was shut down earlier this month after the contract with the United Steelworkers union expired.

In addition, the switch to the summer blend fuel, which is more expensive to produce, is coming up which also slows down production.

Experts say this will all likely drive up gas prices in California.

Gas prices in California had been inching up even before the blast.

Allison Mac, West Coast petroleum analyst for gasbuddy.com, said the accident could contribute to an immediate spike of 7 to 15 cents per gallon, but the effects are likely to remain limited to Southern California.

There are refineries in the region that produce nearly twice as much, so it should not cause a major dent in supply, Mac said. "It's not like we were at 100 and now we're at zero," she said.

Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service, agreed.

"You're not going to see another gasoline apocalypse" like after the 2012 Chevron refinery fire in Richmond, California, that helped send gas prices over $4 a gallon, he said.

It was not clear what caused the explosion or how much work at the refinery was disrupted. Company spokesman Todd Spitler only said other parts of the facility continue to operate.

The state Division of Occupational Safety and Health is leading the investigation, which can take six months to complete. Cal-OSHA inspectors shut down a fluid catalytic cracking unit - a device used in refining oil - where the accident was thought to have occurred, said Erika Monterroza, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Industrial Relations.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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