Refinery Fire Not Expected to Increase Prices at the Pump: Analysts

The Chevron El Segundo Refinery that burned this week supplies 20 percent of the fuel to the local gas market, and 40 percent of the gas to Los Angeles International Airport, the NBC4 I-Team has found.

The fire erupted Tuesday night at the largest oil refinery on the West Coast, but the blaze was extinguished in about 50 minutes. No one was hurt. The explosion occurred on the west side of the refinery on El Segundo Boulevard. The cause hasn't been determined.

California Division of Occupational Safety and Health officials say the fire began when gas oil material was being transferred from one storage tank to another. The fire caused transformer blowouts.

The fire at Chevron's refinery in El Segundo comes five years after a refinery in Northern California caught fire in 2012 when a severely corroded pipe began leaking.

The fire was reviewed and Cal/OSHA issued fines of more than $1 million, the highest allowed under state law.

An NBC4 I-Team review of a 2013 report from the US Chemical Safety Board found pipes at the El Segundo location showed the same corrosion as pipes in Northern California.

A piping sample from the Chevron El Segundo refinery had lost up to 60 percent of its wall thickness. While the pipes in the Northern California location had to be replaced, it is unclear what happened to the pipes in the El Segundo refinery.

However, Cal/OSHA says further problems with the pipes should have shown up in inspections.

Officials say the equipment involved in Tuesday night's incident is suspected to be transfer pumps, not pipes.

Ten years of inspection records at the El Segundo refinery show it has been inspected 21 times. There were 55 citations issued resulting in over $100,000 in fines.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District issued three citations last year for high concentrations of chemicals in the air. Two were related to the wastewater system. The issues were corrected.

The AQMD says they did not receive any complaints during this week's fire.

They encourage anyone who has air quality problems to report them immediately. LAX says that they do not expect problems getting gas. It does not appear prices at the pump will be affected after the fire, according to industry analysts.

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