Gasoline prices hopped higher in the Bay Area by at least 5 cents a gallon in one day, and analysts warned Wednesday that the increases will continue for at least a week or more.
The refinery, hobbled by the fire that broke out Monday, was producing some level of fuel products despite the blaze in crude unit No. 4. Chevron wouldn't specify the extent of output from the Richmond refinery.
"We continue to operate," said Justin Higgs, a Chevron spokesman. "We continue to supply product."
Average gasoline prices jumped 5 cents in the East Bay, South Bay and San Francisco by mid-day Wednesday compared with the prices late Tuesday, according to a survey by the GasBuddy online site.
"Five or six cents a gallon, you might see that sort of increase in a week, but to have that in one day, that shows how significant the refinery fire is," said Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy. "Five or six cents in a day, that's a lot."
The average price of gasoline was $3.92 a gallon in the South Bay, $3.90 a gallon in the East Bay and $3.99 a gallon in San Francisco.
"There is definitely a price spike going on," said Gregg Laskoski, a senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy. "There is no question the fire at the Richmond refinery is the catalyst for this."
Chevron's Richmond refinery can handle 244,000 barrels of oil a day. The vast refinery produces 20 percent to 25 percent of the gasoline used in Northern California.
Yet other challenges have surfaced that have contributed to the gasoline price problems on the West Coast.
For one thing, refinery inventories are low because refinery operators don't want to be caught with a oversupply of summer fuel ahead of the annual switch to winter fuel blends on Oct. 1. The Valero refinery in Benicia has suffered some hiccups lately. Prices had not fully retreated after a Washington state refinery was engulfed by a massive fire that caused the plant to shut down from February through June.
"There are big problems in California right now," Laskoski said.
Contact George Avalos at 925-977-8477. Follow him at twitter.com/george_avalos.