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Sinclair Refiner limits output for Cat Repairs

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    CASPER – The Sinclair Refinery near Rawlins, Wyoming’s largest oil refinery, will operate at about 70 percent of capacity until repairs are completed to one of its catalytic cracking units, probably sometime next week.
    The problem comes as gasoline prices are rising back into the $3 a gallon territory around the Rockies, a situation that many experts blame on limited refinery capacity.
    The Rawlins refinery processes 71,500 barrels of oil a day, and the gasoline it produces goes to Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and Idaho. A company spokesman said the loss of the cracking unit will reduce production by about 22,000 barrels a day until it can be fixed.
    “Oh, jeez,” Rolayne Fairclough, spokeswoman for AAA Utah, said Tuesday when told about the shutdown on Tuesday. “That certainly doesn’t bode well for gasoline prices here.” The refinery experienced a power outage on Sunday that interrupted production. When operations were started again, workers discovered internal damage to one of the cracking units. The units are used to help refine oil into gasoline and other fuels.
    “We’re not entirely sure yet, but we believe the damage was caused by the power outage,” said Sinclair spokesman Clint Ensign. “Finding internal damage in a cracker isn’t common, but it does happen now and then. It is just something you occasionally have to deal (with) when you’re in the refinery business.”
    Tad True, vice president of Belle Fourche Pipeline in Casper, has headed a commission that investigated the region’s oil refining and pipeline markets.
    “This shouldn’t affect markets too much – as long as it’s temporary,” True said of the Sinclair problem.
    The American Automobile Association reported this week that regular unleaded gasoline prices in the region averaged $3.11 per gallon in Idaho, $2.95 in South Dakota, and $3.06 in Billings, Mont. Prices in Wyoming ranged from $2.65 a gallon at a station in Gillette up to $3.11 in Pinedale and Jackson.

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