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The 30-minute fire at LyondellBasell Industries NV’s Houston refinery Tuesday underscored just how quickly US gasoline production can fall at a time when the country is experiencing record-high prices at the pump.
The blaze took out a big coker vital in fuel production and forced the 270,000 barrel-a-day oil processor to cut crude rates for what might be weeks. More than 1 million barrels a day of US capacity has been permanently shut over the last three years. As a result, US refiners are using nearly 94% of their current capacity and still struggling to meet the strong demand for gasoline during the summer driving season.