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US refinery capacity declines for first time since 2003

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

EIA collects capacity information annually for all refineries in the US, in part to assess how much of that capacity is being used. In the mid to late 1990s, demand for petroleum products grew to the point where refineries averaged over 92% capacity utilisation for several years, leading to capacity expansions at existing refineries. However, from late 2007 through the first half of 2009, petroleum demand declined, reflecting the combines effect of the economic downturn, increasing petroleum prices through mid 2008, and the increased use of ethanol blended into gasoline, resulting in excess refining capacity and a refinery utilisation rate of only approximately 83% in 2009. Looking forward, the schedule of higher standards for new vehicle fuel efficiency and the continuing phase in of increased mandates for the use of renewable fuels limit the potential for growth in petroleum demand. Influenced by both recent market developments and the market outlook, refinery capacity fell during 2009 for the first time since 2003.

The stats

As of January 1st 2010, EIA’s Refinery Capacity Report, showed there were 148 refineries in the US with an operable capacity totaling 17 583 790 bpd, down 87 760 bpd from January 1st 2009. The decrease in capacity is mostly due to the shut down of two refineries, Sunoco’s 145 000 bpd Eagle Point refinery in Westville, New Jersey and Valero’s 182 200 bpd Delaware City, Delaware refinery. These declines were offset, in part, by the expansion at Marathon’s Garyville, Louisiana refinery which showed an increase of 180 000 bpd.

Of the 148 US refineries, 137 were operating and 11 were idle on January 1st 2010. A refinery is considered idle if the atmospheric crude oil distillation unit (ACDU) is not in operation and not under active repair, but capable of being placed in operation within 30 days; or the ACDU is not in operation, but under active repair that can be completed within 90 days. Several refineries reported idle capacity because of routine maintenance that happened to fall on January 1st. Some smaller plants including the Flying J (Big West) refinery in Bakersfield, California, and the Western, Bloomfield, New Mexico refinery have been completely idled. However, because they could be restarted within 30 days, they were not classified as shut down.

With the shut down of Valero Energy Corporation’s Delaware City plant, ExxonMobil Corporation replaced Valero as the industry leader in total refining capacity, a position Valero had held since January 1st 2007. ConocoPhillips and BP PLC were ranked third and fourth, respectively, for the fourth year in a row. Marathon Oil Corporation moved back into the fifth slot due to expansion of its Garyville, Louisiana refinery. These five companies hold 45.6% of total US refining capacity.

On a PADD level, the rankings by corporate capacity are unchanged from last year. Sunoco Inc. continues to dominate PADD 1 with 37% of its capacity. Marathon Oil Corporation leads PADD 2 with 18%. ExxonMobil Corporation has 16% of the Capacity in PADD 3. In PADD 4, Suncor Energy Inc. leads with 16% of capacity while Chevron Corporation has the most capacity in PADD 5 with 18%.

Overall, during 2009, there was a slight decrease in capacity for units downstream from the ACDU. As with the decline in ACDU capacity, the downstream unit decline is mostly due to the shutdown of the Delaware City and Eagle Point refineries. The expansion at the Garyville refinery and smaller enhancements to units across the industry helped mitigate those reductions.

US Energy Information Administration

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