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Chevron unsure on refinery's reopening

Facility is largest closed by storm

SAN RAMON, Calif. -- The largest oil refinery shut down by Hurricane Katrina remains out of operation, and owner Chevron Corp. said late Tuesday it's unclear when refining will resume at the Mississippi site.

Chevron's Pascagoula, Miss., refinery processes 325,000 barrels of crude oil a day and was the largest put out of service because of severe hurricane damage last week.

''It would be highly speculative right now to pick out a day," Chevron spokesman Mickey Driver said. ''We have people on the scene surveying the damage and every day we learn more about the situation." The sketchy timetable for restarting the refinery didn't seem to bother investors. Chevron's shares gained 3 cents yesterday to close at $62.37 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Eight major refineries that produce gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, and heating oil were knocked out of commission and the output at two others was curbed by last week's killer hurricane and the flooding that followed. The damage cut overall US refining capacity by more than 10 percent and contributed to a surge in retail gasoline prices and spot shortages around the country.

Gasoline futures remained flat yesterday at $2.055 a gallon on Nymex, but that still leaves them up about 7 percent since Aug. 26, before Katrina struck.

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