An oil refinery fire and explosion Tuesday near Toledo that left two dead and forced the BP facility to shut down is raising additional concerns about how it will affect Midwest gasoline supplies and prices at the pump, which throughout most of the summer had been in decline.
In one day, AAA spokeswoman Adrienne Woodland told the Free Press, the average gas price for regular unleaded in Michigan jumped 5 cents a gallon to $3.85, a result of the shutdown, according to the motor club's national analysts. AAA tracks prices nationwide.
It's unclear, she added, how long higher prices will continue.
But AAA's analysts predicted the Ohio refinery shutdown could continue for up to two weeks.
One of about 130 in the United States, the Husky Toledo Refinery is unlikely to have a major effect on the nation's average gas price, which, according to gasoline price tracker GasBuddy, fell to $3.64 on Monday in the 14th consecutive week of declines and longest downward streak since 2015.
Last month, the weeklong shutdown of BP's Whiting Refinery in Indiana after an electrical fire prompted federal officials to issue an emergency fuel waiver to help alleviate fuel shortages in Michigan and three nearby states: Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. The waiver suspends federal regulations and federally enforceable State Implementation Plan requirements for fuel volatility.
The Indiana refinery processes about 435,000 barrels a day and was blamed for causing some recent gas price variations throughout Michigan, but it restarted at the end of August.
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According to BP's website, the Husky Toledo Refinery in Oregon, Ohio - which the oil company agreed last month to sell a half-interest in - can process up to 160,000 barrels of crude oil per day "providing the Midwest with gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, propane, asphalt and other products."
Witnesses in news reports described an explosion and posted videos of thick back plumes of smoke rising in the air. The fire started Tuesday night, BP spokesperson Megan Baldino said in a statement. The company did not say how the fire started or the extent of the damage.
According to Baldino, two people were hurt, all other staff were accounted for and the plant was safely shut down.
BP announced it would divest its 50% state in the Husky Toledo Refinery for $300 million to its joint venture partner Cenovus Energy.
But even before the fire, Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, warned Monday that "this week could change the downward trend, particularly in Great Lakes states as the transition to winter gasoline begins." The formulations for winter gas are different than the summer to account for the lower temperatures.
De Haan, who was out of the office Wednesday, said earlier that the trend of falling prices may be coming to an end.
The Associated Press contributed. Contact Frank Witsil: 313-222-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: BP oil refinery fire in Toledo: Michigan gas prices surge 5 cents