COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Suncor is reopening its refinery in Commerce City after a two-month shutdown.
While it’s probably not welcomed news for people who live in that neighborhood, the re-opening will stabilize our rising gas prices.
Normally at this time during the winter, we would be enjoying the lowest gas prices of the year, but prices are sitting at a high of $4 dollars a gallon in Colorado — well above the national average of $3.39 a gallon.
“We have really never seen prices this high. If it weren't for gas prices being as expensive as they were last year, we would be verging on an all-time record,” said Skyler McKinley with AAA.
Gas prices have skyrocketed 51% in Colorado since the shutdown because Suncor produces 40% of Colorado’s gasoline.
Troubles at the Commerce City refinery have persisted for years but a deep freeze in December tanked operations. Then, days later, several fires injured two workers.
Meanwhile, the refinery spewed pollutants into the air and released benzene into Sand Creek above allowances. The state is still investigating those violations.
Now Suncor says equipment has been replaced, inspected and they are ready to fully restart. Plant 2 restarted Feb 9. Now the company is preparing a progressive restart of Plants 1 and 3.
It will take several days for equipment to heat up and run at full capacity.
Suncor hopes to have the plant fully operational again by the end of March.
Even when it fully reopens, AAA doesn’t expect gas prices to fall too much from where we are now.
“When Suncor opens back up, I would not anticipate or budget that prices are going to fall off a cliff. We're entering the time of year when we have upward pressure on gas prices globally, upward pressure on gas prices nationally. It's the time of year when we switch over to summer blend, which is generally more expensive for motorists,” McKinley said.
Although the timing of this shutdown couldn’t have been worse for prices, McKinley says it’s a good sign that Suncor continues to invest in the Commerce City refinery, because Coloradans will continue to enjoy gas prices below the national average for years to come.
Suncor warns as they roll into this progressive restart that residents could see increased flaring, noise and traffic.