Will The Philadelphia Refinery Explosion Send Gas Prices Skyrocketing? Experts Weigh In

From The Daily Caller


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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor

June 21, 2019 10:59 AM ET

Explosions at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) refinery, the largest refinery on the East Coast, sent gasoline futures soaring, but experts say it’s still too early to know the full effects of the incident.

“It is too early to know the full impact the fire at the PES facility will have on summer gas prices and for how long for East coast motorists,” Jeanette Casselano, spokeswoman for the American Automobile Association (AAA), told the Daily Caller News Foundation in an email.

The fire, which started in a butane vat around 4 a.m., set off a series of explosions that rocked neighborhoods miles away. Emergency responders had the fire under control by 7 a.m. and no injuries have been reported.

Gasbuddy analyst Patrick DeHaan agreed it’s too early know the full effect the PES fires will have on gas prices. (RELATED: Largest Oil Refinery On The East Coast Explodes, Rocks Houses Miles Away)

“It’s a little bit early on,” DeHaan told the DCNF. “The biggest question is the damage to the refinery.”


Gasoline price futures jumped 3.5 percent on news of the fire, and natural gas prices jumped 1 percent, CNBC reported. Fuel demand was already on the rise this summer, so a major refinery outage could seriously affect the East Coast.

“It’s a serious outage that’s going to greatly affect the East Coast in particular,” John Kilduff with Again Capital, told CNBC. “There’s a cushion for drivers because we’re well supplied, but if there’s major damage, it’s going to change that dynamic dramatically.”

On the flip side, AAA noted Monday that gasoline prices were headed downwards ahead of the refinery explosion. Casselano wrote that “domestic gasoline inventories jumped a million bbl last week, helping to push pump prices lower.”

“[S]trong production output and increased imports have helped gasoline storage levels grow consistently over the past four weeks,” Casselano wrote.

“AAA will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates,” Casselano told the DCNF.

PES has financially struggled over the past two years. PES declared bankruptcy in 2018, blaming their financial woes on the federal government’s biofuel blending mandate.

DeHaan said other factors are also pushing gas prices up, like escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran. The New York Times reported that President Trump approved, then called off, a retaliatory strike against Iran for shooting down a U.S. drone.

“The market is very much on edge and this Iran situation could be a potential catalyst for high gas prices,” DeHaan said.

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June 23, 2019 6:18 am

Will The Philadelphia Refinery Explosion Send Gas Prices Skyrocketing?

The more important question is whether it will cause climate change hysteria to skyrocket in people with IQ’s higher than that of Alexandria Occasional Cortex.

Reply to  David Middleton
June 23, 2019 12:49 pm

Gasoline futures going up by 3.5% is hardly “skyrocketing”? Depending on where you live, as much as half the price of a gallon of gas is from taxes, and that portion isn’t increasing.

Nicholas McGinley
June 23, 2019 6:43 am

Is the cause of the initial fire known?
Has foul play been ruled out?

Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
June 23, 2019 9:25 am

Sounds like it broke out in one of the heaters in the reformer. The ‘vat’ was probably a storage tank for the butane and propane stream from the reformer.


Tom in Florida
Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
June 23, 2019 9:36 am

“PES has financially struggled over the past two years. PES declared bankruptcy in 2018, blaming their financial woes on the federal government’s biofuel blending mandate.”

Didn’t the Doors do a song about that?

Johann Wundersamer
Reply to  Tom in Florida
June 25, 2019 11:12 pm

Tom, the Door’s song isn’t PES but PAS:

People Are Strange

when you’re a stranger.

R Shearer
June 23, 2019 6:47 am

Pipelines from the Gulf Coast will ameliorate the emergency (everything is an emergency now). When that refinery was owned by Sunoco it was a money loser at the time and almost shuddered when the Carlyle Group came to the “rescue.”

Reply to  R Shearer
June 23, 2019 8:22 am

Everything is an emergency now because this is the only way the former profession of “journalism” can sell papers these days. Without a crisis or a plane crash, viewership/readership drops quickly (taking revenue with it), indicating the true value society assigns to contemporary news media.

Worse, if no catastrophes are available for endless, breathless hyping, so-called news organizations will just make one up. Readers of this site understand this situation all too well.

Reply to  R Shearer
June 23, 2019 8:31 am

Picturing a refinery “shuddering.”

Samuel C Cogar
Reply to  jorgekafkazar
June 23, 2019 9:51 am

Wrong type of shudder, they are the tall slender ones with a sky hook.

Reply to  jorgekafkazar
June 23, 2019 9:55 am

Or “shuttered” for that matter … Are there windows at oil refineries?

R Shearer
Reply to  Kenji
June 23, 2019 10:23 am

I knew something with that word wasn’t quite right. It did shudder though.

R Shearer
June 23, 2019 6:51 am

They should not have used a vat for butane.

Reply to  R Shearer
June 23, 2019 7:42 am

Value Added Taxes are always “losers” … not what you meant? (/sarc)

R Shearer
Reply to  _Jim
June 23, 2019 8:09 am

True, but the article said the fire started in a butane vat. I could have told them not to use a vat for butane.

Reply to  _Jim
June 23, 2019 9:46 am

I have worked on Butane storage before and don’t know what a Vat is? I suspect it was some form of a pressurized storage sphere but don’t depend on the media to give accurate description in any matter although a simple google shows what I am familiar with.

This is probably what was involved. Never heard of a Vat for storage of liquified gasses.

A pressure of 350 kPa or about 3.5 atmospheres is required to liquefy iso-butane at room temperature of 25 oC. At -11.7 oC the vapor pressure of iso-butane reaches 101.3 kPa (one atmosphere). Therefore -11.7 oC is iso-butane’s normal boiling point.

Reply to  Catcracking
June 23, 2019 10:12 am

this is why we shudder at the fake news purveyors. Even if one flunked HS chemistry ( o, i feget junolists dnt stdy cmstry) one should know that a vat is an open top, usually small tank.

And the greatest energy scam of all time is forcing blenders to use any set quantity of biodiesel or ethanol. If bio-diesel, a decent fuel of high lubricity, can’t stand on it’s own, the vegatable oil should be burned as a supplement in coal-fired plants.

R Shearer
Reply to  Catcracking
June 23, 2019 10:26 am

A vat is a vessel with an open top, commonly used for mixing. I shudder to think they were using a vat. Or maybe the reporter is ignorant of this usage.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  R Shearer
June 23, 2019 11:38 am

The quality of reporting has been declining for some time. I recently took a Yahoo article to task for reporting on wolf “cubs” being born. I got two Thumbs Down for my pedantic effort. For some, apparently anything goes.

Loren Wilson
Reply to  R Shearer
June 23, 2019 1:34 pm

This is probably a trade term. You can’t store butane in an open container, not with a flash point of -74°C.

Reply to  R Shearer
June 23, 2019 8:38 am

Such articles are written by simple people, people of the land. Paparazzi. You can bet it wasn’t really a butane “vat.” BTX, perhaps, or something of lower volatility. Maybe in a clarifier or similar device.

Reply to  R Shearer
June 23, 2019 8:59 am

re: “They should not have used a vat for butane.”

While we’re on the subject, probably no ‘open flames’ should be used for industrial heating of product in ‘work flow’ either … and certainly no splashing/spillage from the ‘vat’ during processing.

(DIRHTDT? /sarc)

Reply to  _Jim
June 23, 2019 10:23 am

The Druids stirring that vat were on strike.

Never trust the press to get any tech story right. They are incompetent in this area, thus a major source of incomprehensible misinformation.

Reply to  Mark
June 23, 2019 7:53 pm

Mark wrote:
“Never trust the press to get any tech story right.”

Too true Mark – the climate system is more technically complex than even a very sophisticated oil refinery – note how often the press writes about the climate, and gets it all wrong…

To understand climate hysteria, one needs to understand sociology, psychology and statistics:

“Think about how stupid the average person is… …and then realize that half of them are stupider than that!”

Reply to  Mark
June 27, 2019 10:09 am

Tech story? Heck, they have problems getting *any* story right, especially when partisan politics gets involved.

June 23, 2019 7:04 am


From the EIA, stocks of gasoline by PAD district.

June 23, 2019 7:22 am

Gas prices in North Central Alabama have gone down 2 cents since Friday.

Reply to  F.LEGHORN
June 23, 2019 9:45 am

Alabama is a low population area so it uses gasoline with less octane and ethanol. The Northeast will need octane from the gulf coast to make up for alkylation unit that burned. Would expect the prices of premium to go up.

Reply to  Ed
June 27, 2019 10:13 am

5 million is low for 55,000 or so square miles of area? And much of that area is covered with VOC producing trees. Oh yeah, you can get 100% gasoline here, too.

Also, Alabama has refineries (two that I know of) and there are more nearby; plus at least two big pipelines running through, one near Montgomery and one near Birmingham.

Mortimer Phillip Zilch
June 23, 2019 7:35 am

no word on CAUSE? terror act????? corporate sabotage??? looks, smells, sounds FISHY to me..

Reply to  Mortimer Phillip Zilch
June 23, 2019 8:47 am

Refineries are complicated beasts. Things happen. Especially in refineries that have been struggling financially, which usually results in fewer experienced operators, more deferred maintenance, purchase of used or low-bidder equipment, and higher failure rates. There’s nothing revealed so far that points at sabotage.

Reply to  Mortimer Phillip Zilch
June 23, 2019 9:29 am

A refinery is to fire as Disneyland is to children.

It’ doesn’t take anything ‘fishy’ to cause something like this. It just takes one screw up at the wrong place and time.

Reply to  Mortimer Phillip Zilch
June 23, 2019 10:05 am

Terror? I think you meant to say “salvation” … saving the planet from a fiery, hellish, end … wiping out every living creature on the planet caused by these satanic Gaia-killing refineries. We need more brave eco-justice warriors SAVING us from certain death – coming in just 12 years!! These eco warriors will be hailed as heroes (heroines) should they save us from certain petrol-death!!

What’s sad … is that my nonsensical narrative is what many, many, people in our advanced, technological, scientific society … “believe”. Esp. in the FAKE media. And yet they mock Christians for “believing” in a sky daddy. Sadly, intentional … willful … stupidity gets headline after headline.

Reply to  Kenji
June 23, 2019 12:33 pm

You really should have put a /sarc tag in there somewhere…

Michael Jankowski
Reply to  Mortimer Phillip Zilch
June 23, 2019 10:19 am

Put your tinfoil hat back-on.

If terrorists wanted to start trouble at that facility, they would have gone after a HF tank.

Corporate sabotage? Why?

Reply to  Michael Jankowski
June 23, 2019 12:34 pm

Ugh, HF… That’d make for some wonderful headlines, not. I really dislike going into HF units.

June 23, 2019 7:49 am

I watched Philadelphia refinery gas tanks burn back in the early-1970s.
They were filled with gasoline, not butane, so the fires were not truly explosive; just immense fires.

I didn’t notice any change in the cost of gasoline back then.
However, the cost of butane filled cylinders and refill cans may jump in price.

Kevin kilty
June 23, 2019 8:08 am

Prices will also depend on demand. Summer travel might be related to weather, and right now it is snowing in southern Wyoming, probably throughout northern Colorado as well; Bryce Canyon was below freezing this morning. I wonder if staying in this weather pattern we saw through winter and spring will dampen enthusiasm for vacations out west.

Loren Wilson
Reply to  Kevin kilty
June 23, 2019 1:37 pm

It actually makes it more pleasant to visit. I lived in Utah for 12 years, didn’t have a summer like this one. Must be climate change.

June 23, 2019 8:25 am

According to EIA’s data, U.S. crude oil refinery inputs averaged 15.8 million barrels per day last week, 18,000 barrels per day more than the previous week’s average. U.S. refineries operated at 86.4 percent of their operable capacity. link

I know very little about the refinery industry but it sounds like there’s enough capacity to meet the demand.

June 23, 2019 9:01 am

Notice the complete lack of mention of gas tax increases in the past 6-12 months in these states. They will mention every other possibility but that in this and every other story on the subject.

D. Anderson
June 23, 2019 9:03 am

If gas prices go up (temporarily) it’s because people (like me) rush out and fill up their tanks on the news.

June 23, 2019 9:06 am

my knee jerk reaction is, Maybe on the East Coast – but I don’t see why it should impact the Gulf Coast.

Robert of Texas
June 23, 2019 9:13 am

Well, luckily the East Coast has already decided to phase out fossil fuels so they can just setup a few million wind turbines and solar cells, plug them in, and all will be well…at least on sunny days when the wind is blowing.

Oh, the cars you ask? They were already going to ban all cars so no harm there either. No trains, no airplanes. Everyone was going to walk and ride bicycles.

In all honesty, a fuel shortage might go a long way to waking some people up as to its importance.

Bryan A
Reply to  Robert of Texas
June 24, 2019 7:35 pm

Perhaps Elon Musk can devise a conversion kit to transform ICE vehicles into all electric

CD in Wisconsin
June 23, 2019 10:44 am

If anti-fossil fuel activists do not demand that this refinery be left shut down and dismantled instead of repaired and brought back online, I will be somewhat surprised. Maybe quite surprised.

If Pennsylvania’s or federal politicians give in to the activists and gasoline prices jump and remain higher because of it, then those politicians can explain it to the American motorist. If East coast motorists are leftist enough however, they probably will be accepting of it without complaining.

I imagine it is difficult or impossible to upgrade, expand or build new refineries these days because of regulations and anti-fossil fuel activism. If that is the case, being in the refinery business these days probably only makes sense as a necessity to keep the economy going.

June 23, 2019 10:58 am

It’s the Philadelphia Experiment.

Henry chance
June 23, 2019 1:02 pm

Money loosing refinery purchased by Wall Street suits.

The life cycle of a refinery calls for a turnaround. The engineers order new equipment and rebuild old. Shut down the refinery, lose a lot more money, spend money and startup again.

After turnaround, they hope to increase the spread (margins) by a few cents per barrel.
Turnaround is maintenance. Like a “major” is on a private aircraft.

Turnarounds are choreographed like a theater.

R Shearer
Reply to  Henry chance
June 23, 2019 2:26 pm

The union at that refinery was awesome (sarc). Had to call out a pipefitter to turn a 1/4″ nut. It took him a half hour to get there, job compete in 31 minutes (less than 1 minute to turn the nut).

June 23, 2019 7:32 pm

Below is an update on the damage from the Phila. Refinery fire, according to this article one unit the Alkylation unit is completely destroyed and will take a long time to rebuild.

Note below an Alkylation unit is important in converting low-molecular weight alkenes to high octane gasoline and supply disruptions will need to be worked out for the east coast which may involve imported fuels.
“An alkylation unit is one of the conversion processes used in petroleum refineries. It is used to convert isobutane and low-molecular-weight alkenes (primarily a mixture of propene and butene) into alkylate, a high octane gasoline component.”

Reply to  Catcracking
June 24, 2019 3:30 am

Hmm. You can see the acid settler on the right side of the picture. It appears to be intact.

R Shearer
June 23, 2019 8:48 pm

By gosh it is an HF alky unit that was destroyed. Sulfuric acid is a little more friendly. In any case, bad news for PES and its customers but good for its competition.

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