Refinery fire threatens gas costs : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Tuesday, April 24, 2001

Refinery fire threatens gas costs

Staff and Wire Services

At a time of record-breaking gasoline price hikes, a fire Monday shut down a large Southern California refinery, sending clouds of inky black smoke into the sky and threatening to further drive up prices at the pump. Fire at Tosco refinery in Carson. (Assoicated Press) Huge balls of fire rocketed into the air as the blaze raged out of control at the Tosco refinery in a suburban area 15 miles south of downtown Los Angeles.

Firefighters had the blaze under control by 7:30 p.m., said Los Angeles County Fire Department spokesman Roland Sprewell. There were no injuries reported, and the cause of the fire was not known.

The fire erupted at 4:52 p.m. in the refinery's "coker" unit, where petroleum coke -- a type of coal -- is burned in the process of making gasoline, said Tosco spokesman Andy Perez.

The refinery was running at full capacity at the time of the fire. The Carson plant processes crude oil, then ships it to a Tosco refinery in nearby Wilmington where it is turned into gasoline.

Perez said it was not immediately known whether the fire would affect the company's gasoline output or when the coker unit would reopen.

"It would have an impact, I'm not sure to what degree," he said.

Tosco is the largest independent refiner and marketer of petroleum products in the country.

In February, Oklahoma-based Phillips Oil Co. announced it would purchase Tosco in a $7 billion stock transaction.

The Carson refinery is one of the biggest in the state, with a daily crude oil capacity of 125,000 barrels, according to the California Energy Commission, compared with the state's capacity of 1.9 million barrels.

The total gasoline production statewide is about 1 million barrels (42 million gallons) per day.

A major problem at the plant could lead to increased prices at a time when gasoline has already jumped 13 cents per gallon in the past two weeks.

It was the largest increase in prices since the Lundberg Survey, which watches U.S. gas prices, started in the 1950s.

As the fire raged Monday in an industrial area dotted with storage tanks, huge plumes of black smoke billowed into the clear-blue afternoon sky, and witnesses reported seeing them as far as 50 miles away.

About 200 people work at the Carson plant near Sepulveda Boulevard and Alameda Street, including operators in the coker unit, but all were safely evacuated and accounted for, Perez said.

Some of the smoke drifted over a nearby residential neighborhood. No evacuations were ordered but residents were asked to stay inside with windows and doors closed, Perez said.

Jerry Martin, spokesman for the state Air Resources Board, said the most likely emissions from the fire were benzene and 1, 3 butadiene, both identified as toxic and cancer-causing.

"If you're downwind of the refinery I would advise people to stay indoors if at all possible," Martin said. "Children, older people, people with illnesses in particular should make sure they're not breathing this."

The Associated Press and Daily News

-- Martin Thompson (, April 24, 2001


Thursday April 26, 11:27 am Eastern Time Tosco says LA coker unit out 1 to 2 months after fire

NEW YORK, April 26 (Reuters) - Tosco Corp.(NYSE:TOS - news) said the coking processing unit at its 130,000 barrels per day (bpd) Los Angeles refinery that went down after a fire on Monday should be out for one to two months.

The fire occurred at the Carson section of the two-part complex. The coker unit mainly produces heating oil, but it also cut production at additional processing units. The Wilmington section of the complex, which is connected by pipeline, was unaffected. Wilmington holds the gasoline making units.

Jay Allen, Tosco's President and CEO said preliminary investigations into the fire indicated the coker unit would be out for one to two months and financial impact of the outage ``is well under $1 million per day.''

The outage helped push up cash gasoline prices in the Los Angeles trading hub to about $1.45 per gallon.

-- Martin Thompson (, April 30, 2001.

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