BAYTOWN, Texas (KXAN) – A “major industrial accident” at an oil refinery outside of Houston early Thursday morning could possibly impact gas supply, experts say.
Four people are being treated for injuries after a fire and possible explosion in Baytown at an ExxonMobil oil refinery. The Harris County Sheriff’s Office called it a “major industrial accident.” ExxonMobil says the fire started around 1 a.m., the cause is still being determined.
At a press conference early Thursday morning, refinery manager Rohan Davis said everyone is accounted for and the four people injured are currently “stable,” but would not say how severe the injuries are. He would also not confirm that the fire sparked an explosion.
The refinery has the capacity to process up to 584,000 barrels of crude oil each day and employs about 7,000 people, making it one of the largest in Texas. For this reason, gas experts say it could possibly affect supply.
“Certainly if it takes some time to get that facility back up and running, it could have an impact on supplies in the state and regionally and that could impact gas prices,” said Daniel Armbruster, a spokesperson for AAA Texas.
The incident comes at a time when gas prices have been steadily declining after year-highs in November.
Currently, Texas has the lowest average gas price nationwide at $2.88 per gallon, compared to the country’s average of $3.29. The national average in December 2020 was $1.94.
“More people have been driving this year so gas prices have been going up throughout the year. They’ve been coming down recently but that’s due to concerns over the omicron variant and the impact it could have on gasoline demand,” Armbruster said.
The Biden Administration is taking some credit for declining prices after taking action in to help ease with supply and demand issues. In late November, President Biden announced the U.S. would begin tapping into 50 million barrels of oil from the country’s strategic reserve in hopes of bringing down costs.
White House assistant press secretary Emilie Simons says this “aggressive action” was aimed to ensure Americans pay lower prices at every opportunity.
“Based on the strength of our partnerships and the leadership of President Biden, we were able to see a gap closed in the demand for gas and the supply,” Simons told Nexstar.
Armbruster said its likely too soon to say whether that action was the main driver for declining prices.
“It’s tough to say because that oil likely isn’t quite on the market yet. It usually takes four to six weeks to get on to the market,” he said. “It could have some impact, especially having other countries involved but it’s still a little early to say just how much of an impact it will have.”