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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Update: Up to 14 feared dead in BP blast

The AP is reporting that the toll of death and injury in today's Texas City explosion is mounting:
A thunderous explosion tore through a BP oil refinery Wednesday, shooting flames and billowing smoke into the sky and showering the area with ash and chunks of charred metal. At least 14 were believed dead and more than 100 were injured. Workers searched through rubble for survivors or bodies Wednesday night, several hours after the 1:20 p.m. blast. The cause of the explosion was not immediately known. Most of the injured suffered broken bones, cuts, concussions and other injuries.
If any of you out there want to check on family members who may have been at the facility, call BP Amoco's hotline at 409-945-1400. Though there is no evidence of terrorist involvement, FBI agents are investigating the scene:
The FBI also joined the investigation into the blast, which is standard procedure after the Sept. 11 attacks. But officials said they do not suspect terrorism. "We have blast technicians down there and other personnel working with the Texas City P.D. at their command post," said Al Tribble, with the Houston FBI office. "From what I've seen and heard, thus far, there's a lot of investigative work that needs to be done. There's a lot of questions that have to be asked."
As Dan discussed on his show this afternoon, there have been concerns that the explosion will bring upward pressure to bear on energy prices. It looks like those fears are well-founded, at least in the short term:
U.S. refineries used 90.2 percent of their capacity last week, the Energy Department said yesterday. "This is going to send product prices higher," said Mike Armbruster, co-founder of Altavest Worldwide Trading Inc. in Laguna Hills, California. "The pedal is to the metal in terms of refinery usage," and nobody knows yet how much damage has been done at the Texas plant, he said. Crude oil for May delivery rose as much as 69 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $54.50 a barrel in after-hours electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It was at $53.71 at 11:34 a.m. Sydney time. Gasoline for April delivery jumped as much as 2.1 percent to $1.6080, the highest since the contact began trading in 1984. It last traded at $1.5851.
It's not all bad news, though. One analyst predicts that the market will recover from the blast, as energy prices appear to be overextended:
"We're seeing a little bit of air coming out of all the commodities right now, and oil in particular," Armbruster said, adding that he plans to sell oil in coming days. Should the futures fall through $51.50, they may decline into the high-$40s, regardless of the timing of further production rises promised by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, he said.

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