Updated: December 2, 2013 12:27PM
The Citgo oil refinery in Lemont could operate at reduced capacity for six months until repairs are completed after last week’s fire, Reuters news service reported Wednesday.
The report said production could be down 40 percent until the repairs are done, citing an unnamed source close to the fire investigation. Citgo has not commented on the Reuters report, which also said the fire was caused by a leak of hot combustible fluid.
The Oct. 23 fire shut down the refinery’s crude oil unit, where oil is initially processed before being refined into gasoline. With the crude unit down, the refinery cannot bring in more oil to produce gasoline.
Citgo has continued to produce gasoline from oil that had been processed through the crude unit before the fire occurred.
On Monday, Citgo issued a statement saying it had isolated the vacuum distillation section of the crude unit, where the fire occurred, and had begun the process of restarting the atmospheric section of the unit.
Once the atmospheric section is working again, the refinery can start processing crude oil, though not at full production, according to Citgo, which said it expected the crude unit to be operating at “reduced rates” by the end of next week.
Citgo has not revealed how much production will be reduced or how long it will take to return to full operation. At full capacity, the refinery produces about 180,000 barrels, or 7.5 million gallons, of gasoline a day.
Refinery breakdowns can lead to higher gasoline prices because of lower output. Chicago-area gas prices, however, already were trending downward when the fire occurred and have continued to drop since, although one analyst has noted that prices could have gone down more if the fire had not happened.