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California Gasoline Drops as Chevron Starts Richmond Crude Unit

Spot gasoline in California weakened against futures after Chevron Corp. said the crude unit at the Richmond refinery was processing oil and that the El Segundo plant returned to normal operation after repairs.

The 240,000-barrel-a-day Richmond plant put oil this week into its only crude unit, shut after a fire Aug. 6, and will bring other equipment at the plant to capacity in “the coming days,” Jeff Gustavson, Chevron’s general manager of investor relations, said in an earnings conference call today.

The 279,000-barrel-a-day El Segundo refinery near Los Angeles resumed normal rates after a maintenance turnaround, Pat Yarrington, the San Ramon, California-based company’s chief financial officer, said in the call.

California-blend gasoline, or Carbob, in Los Angeles dropped 6.5 cents versus futures traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange to a premium of 10.5 cents a gallon at 4:04 p.m. East Coast time, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The same fuel in San Francisco weakened 4.5 cents to 22.5 cents a gallon above futures. San Francisco’s premium to Los Angeles widened 2 cents to 12 cents a gallon.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s 165,000-barrel-a-day Martinez refinery in Northern California was starting “several units” after finishing a turnaround, The Hague-based company told county regulators in a notice yesterday. Chevron’s Richmond plant also reported the startup of an unidentified unit yesterday, a separate notice shows.

California-blend, or CARB, diesel in Los Angeles was unchanged against ultra-low-sulfur diesel futures on the Nymex at a discount of 1.25 cents a gallon. CARB diesel in San Francisco held at 4 cents a gallon below futures.

Conventional gasoline in Portland, Oregon, was unchanged at 11 cents a gallon over Nymex futures. Low-sulfur diesel there held at a premium of 0.75 cent a gallon.

The 3-2-1 crack spread of Alaska North Slope crude, Carbob in Los Angeles and CARB diesel in Los Angeles narrowed for the first time in three days, shrinking $1.12 to $17.19 a barrel. The spread, a rough indicator of refinery margins, is down 41 percent from this year’s high of $29.09 a barrel on Feb. 5.

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