How will California refinery fire affect gas prices locally?

How will California refinery fire affect gas prices locally? »Play Video

PORTLAND, Ore. - A massive fire has shut down one of the West Coast's biggest refineries, which could take a serious toll on the supply gasoline here in the Northwest.

The Chevron refinery in Richmond, Calif. produces about 150,000 barrels of gasoline a day, or about 16 percent of what is used on the West Coast, according to Tom Kloza, a chief oil analyst at Oil Price Information Service.

There's no telling just how bad the damage is, but it could mean a spike in prices at the pump.

Everybody from economists to gas station owners has their eye on these gas prices. Locally, gas station owners say the refinery fire has already affected gas prices in Oregon.

A Chevron gas station owner in Portland says he started paying 10 cents more for every gallon of gas as of 6 p.m. Tuesday night – one day after the fire at the Chevron refinery.

He also says he expects to pay at least another 20 cents per gallon in the near future.

But AAA says this initial spike is just the knee-jerk reaction from buyers panicked about the possible shortage in supply. Nobody knows how bad the damage is at the refinery or how long it will take to get production back to normal.

So what will it cost consumers? The bottom line: It's too early to know.

But look at BP's Cherry Point Refinery fire in Washington earlier this year. That fire happened in February and prices skyrocketed 70 cents over the next three months.

So will the Chevron refinery fire cost as much?

Economists at Portland-based McCullough Research say hopefully not. That BP fire had some bad timing. Soon after that fire other refineries in the region shut down for scheduled maintenance, making the supply even smaller. So this initial jump in gas prices could be temporary. It just depends on how badly that Chevron refinery is damaged.

Economists say there are other factors that play a role as well, including the 23 out-of-state refineries that states like Oregon rely. The Chevron refinery is one of the 23 so there is a chance some of the other refineries will have enough reserves to help fill the hole in the supply chain while the Chevron refinery is down.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.