Goddammit. Just when we were beginning to get used to this summertime dip in gas prices — they've fallen from over $4.30 in March to about $3.90 today — the largest refinery in NorCal has to go and screw everything up.

According to reports, a series of explosions at the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond caused a massive fire to break out yesterday evening. A dramatic cloud of black smoke spread over the Bay Area as the sun set…

… reportedly sending dozens to the hospital.

But more importantly (JK?), the beleaguered commuters of Southern California will soon be feeling the fire's effects on their guzzling budget.

Phil Flynn, an energy analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago (where gas prices recently shot up due to refinery problems in Illinois and Indiana), tells CBS LA that because the Richmond plant “account[s] for about 10 percent of the total refining capacity all along the entire West Coast,” gas prices in Los Angeles could rise…

… anywhere between 25 cents to 50 cents per gallon in coming weeks.

Another analyst in Texas tells Bloomberg that we could be paying 10 cents more as early as today.

The consumer price for California gasoline (or “Carbob”) is, of course, based on its wholesale price, which will rise instantly, as soon as the fire damage has been assessed.

We've contacted Chevron for an update on how many units are compromised this morning, and how long the shutdown is expected to last. But Bloomberg has some early doomsday predictions to ruin your August road trip:

Carbob spot prices today may be 24 cents higher than yesterday and diesel may jump 4 cents, Bob van der Valk, a petroleum industry analyst in Terry, Montana, said in an e-mail. He said BP Plc (BP/)'s Cherry Point refinery in Washington took four months to reach full operation after a fire in February.

[@simone_electra / swilson@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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