BP Refinery Shutdown Starting To Look Lengthy

Feb 27, 2012

The oil company BP is zeroing in on a cause for last week's explosion at its big Cherry Point refinery near Ferndale, Washington. But the investigation and repairs are moving slowly. That doesn't bode well for gasoline prices in Western Washington and Oregon. Correspondent Tom Banse reports.

In a memo to the refinery's neighbors, BP said it has isolated the source of last week's explosion. It blames a "failure" in something called the Crude Vacuum Unit. BP says it needs to figure out how to make sure the failure doesn't happen again before it restarts production. Refinery spokesman Mike Abendhoff would not even hazard a guess for how long that might be.

Mike Abendhoff: "We're going to take a very methodical approach to the investigation to ensure that we fully understand what happened, so one, we can learn from it and two, we can share those learnings across the industry."

The Cherry Point refinery supplies about 20 percent of the transportation fuels for Washington and Oregon. Since the shutdown, gasoline prices in the region have spiked. Abendhoff claims the majority of the past week's increases are due not so much the local accident, but to the rising price of crude globally.
According to AAA, the average price of regular unleaded shot up 23-24 cents per gallon just in the past week in western Washington and Oregon. By comparison, the average price at the pump in Idaho went up by 14 cents in the past week. Idaho and eastern Washington receive most of their gasoline from refineries in Montana and Utah, which are operating normally.