A fire and explosions at an oil refinery in Philadelphia sent shockwaves through neighboring towns on the first day of summer, a rocky start to the busiest travel season for motorists.
No deaths or injuries were reported at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions Refining Complex, the East Coast’s largest refinery, where the blasts originated. However, the fire raised questions about how much drivers in the region will have to pay for gas.
The 150-year-old refinery processes hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil daily that turns into gasoline.
While it’s still too soon to know the exact impact on future gas availability, experts say communities close to ground zero of the blast have a higher chance of seeing moderate pump increases as soon as this weekend.
“Since the news is so fresh, the market is going to be a little unsure of what’s happening so you may see gas stations being a little concerned that they may not get gas as quickly,” said Jeanette Casselano, spokeswoman for the American Automobile Association (AAA).
“Because of all that you may see a little price jumping, not gouging in the coming days.”
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Along with surrounding cities, price increases could be felt soon in New Jersey and Delaware also, Casselano said, depending on how long the oil facility is offline.
How much more could I pay?
Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, which monitors real-time fuel prices, said that wholesale gas prices are already up 6 to 8 cents, “which suggests retail gas prices may start moving higher in the next few days with an uptick just before July 4.”
Reacting to the refinery news, gasoline futures shot up 3.6% to $1.85 a gallon on Friday, according to MarketWatch.
The good news, DeHaan says, is that gas can be imported from the U.S. Gulf Coast region — a major refining hub — or from overseas, which could limit any potential fallout.
“We have to wait for the smoke to clear to get a full understanding of what’s going on,” Casselano said. “What’s going to determine how long (a gas shortage lasts) and how much prices will increase is going to be determined by how long the refinery is shut down.”
The cause for the fire is still under investigation.
Follow Dalvin Brown on Twitter: @Dalvin_Brown.