A massive fire that erupted inside of ExxonMobil’s refinery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, late Tuesday is unlikely to affect U.S. gasoline prices.
No injuries were reported and the fire was contained to the location where it started, Fire Department spokesman Curt Monte told news outlets.
“It’s unclear until we know more about the exact impact of damage. However, preliminary reports from Exxon say there is no impact to the gas terminal, which would mean no impact to gas prices,” said Jeanette Casselano, spokeswoman for the American Automobile Association.
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Gas prices have been dropping
U.S. gas prices have fallen in recent weeks due to lower oil prices, which are slipping on expectations that demand for fuel will ease as the coronavirus discourages travel. Another drag on crude demand is that China, the center of the outbreak, is the world’s second-largest consumer of oil.
Casselano says even without the coronavirus, motorists could expect to see lower prices during this time of year. Demand for gasoline typically tends to be low in the months of January and February.
“We’d already be seeing prices going down, but now it’s being enhanced with what’s going on with the coronavirus,” said Casselano.
Gas prices nationwide of regular-grade gasoline are at an average of $2.425 per gallon, down more than 15 cents from last month, according to AAA. Gas prices haven’t been that low since March 2019, AAA says.
Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at fuel savings app GasBuddy, says there’s another reason motorists shouldn’t expect a jump in gas prices: refinery maintenance.
Dehaan says Louisiana’s refinery was expected to undergoimaintenance work this month, which is something plants typically go through from February through May, ahead of the busy travel season.
“Lucky for motorists, this refinery was already planning for maintenance when this fire broke out, so the expectation was that the facility wouldn’t be running fully,” said DeHaan. “That is helping to limit the impact to gas prices.”
Contributing: The Associated Press