Oil leak unlikely to impact gas prices short-term

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Investigators are still trying to pinpoint the exact cause of a gas pipeline leak, the second in six months in the same general area.

It appears in the short term, the leak will not affect gasoline prices in Utah.

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To report a health incident: 1-866-782-6340
For general questions and concerns: 801-535-7171
For monitoring updates: www.slcgov.com/oilspill

Local Chevron refinery manager Mark Sullivan says the pipeline that was discovered leaking Wednesday night brings in 15,000 to 20,000 barrels of crude oil a day. That's only 10 to 15 percent of the daily total refined in the area.

"The pipeline is a significant source of oil to our facility, our Chevron facility; however, it's not the only source," Sullivan said.

Five refineries here combine to refine 175,000 barrels of crude a day. Sullivan also says Chevron's refineries have a good back up supply, but if the pipeline remains shut down the company will have to get the oil here another way.

Industry experts say piping in crude oil is a cheaper way to do business and trucking it in would eventually add to the cost of gasoline. It's unclear how long it would take to see a difference.

Sullivan anticipates no impact at the gas pump. But a spokeswoman for AAA Utah says gas prices could go up eventually, depending on how long the pipeline shut-down lasts.

"My primary concern is the effect on the trust in the community and our ability to operate the facilities without incident," Sullivan said.

Investigators are still cleaning up the leak near Red Butte Creek. About 100 barrels leaked from the Chevron pipeline late Wednesday night.

Chevron has promised to clean up the spill and make sure the pipeline is safe. Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker wants to shut down the pipeline indefinitely.

At the mayor and city councils' asking, investigators from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration have arrived.

This is the agency that levied more than $400,000 in civil penalties against Chevron following last June's spill of more than 800 barrels from the same pipeline.


Story written with contributions from Andrew Adams and Courtney Orton.

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