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San Francisco Gasoline Falls as Chevron Readies Unit for Startup

Spot gasoline in San Francisco slid against futures as Chevron Corp. prepared the crude unit at the Richmond refinery for startup after an eight-month shutdown.

The 240,000-barrel-a-day Richmond plant was cleared by state regulators April 5 to resume service at the No. 4 crude unit, shut since a fire Aug. 6. The refinery was performing a “pre-startup safety review” of the equipment last week, Nigel Hearne, the refinery’s manager, said in an April 5 letter.

California-blend gasoline, or Carbob, in San Francisco weakened 1 cent against futures traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange to a premium of 9.5 cents a gallon, data compiled by Bloomberg show. The fuel gained yesterday to the highest level against futures since Feb. 6 after Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s Martinez refinery was said to shut units for work.

The Richmond refinery has been producing fuel at about half its capacity since the fire damaged a tower at the crude unit. Chevron, based in San Ramon, California, expects the unit to restart this quarter, Melissa Ritchie, a company spokeswoman in Richmond, said by e-mail today.

Carbob stockpiles rose for the first time in five weeks, jumping 8.9 percent to 5.85 million barrels in the seven days ended April 5, the state Energy Commission said late today. That’s the highest inventory level for the fuel since March 8, the agency’s website shows.

Carbob in Los Angeles climbed 2 cents against futures to a premium of 7.5 cents a gallon. The premium for Carbob in San Francisco versus the fuel in Los Angeles narrowed 3 cents to 2 cents a gallon, the smallest in a week.

Diesel Prices

California-blend diesel in San Francisco was unchanged against ultra-low-sulfur diesel futures on the Nymex at a premium of 7 cents a gallon. Diesel in Los Angeles held at 5 cents a gallon above futures.

CARB diesel inventories rose for the first time in three weeks, climbing 4.4 percent to 2.21 million barrels, the state Energy Commission said.

In Portland, Oregon, low-sulfur diesel dropped 3 cents to an 11-cent-a-gallon premium versus ULSD futures. Gasoline there gained 1.5 cents against gasoline futures to a premium of 5 cents a gallon, the highest level since Feb. 27.

Gasoline stockpiles on the U.S. West Coast, known as the PADD 5 region, dropped for the ninth straight week, slipping by 1.1 percent to 28.4 million barrels, the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the Energy Department’s statistical arm, said today. Distillate fuel oil supplies gained for the first time in six weeks, rising 1.4 percent to 11.7 million barrels, the agency said.

The 3-2-1 crack spread of Alaska North Slope crude, Carbob in Los Angeles and CARB diesel in Los Angeles dropped for the first time in three days, narrowing by $2.23 to $16.40 a barrel at. The spread, a rough indicator of refinery profit margins, hit a one-year low of $3.86 a barrel in December.

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