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US refineries running at record levels

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) US refinery inputs hit a record high for the week ending 11 July, reaching 16.8 million bpd. Inputs remained at this level for the subsequent week.

EIA highlights that inputs as refineries in Petroleum Administration for Defense Districts (PADDs) 2 and 3 (Midwest and Gulf Coast) were particularly strong, reflecting Midcontinent refiners’ access to cost advantaged crude, recent capacity expansions, growing domestic demand, and increasing exports.

Midwest refining

Refinery gross inputs have been higher than the five year average since April according to the EIA. Recent and unplanned changes to pipeline infrastructure that have altered the types of product moved have meant that less gasoline is expected to enter the Midwest from the Gulf Coast this summer, increasing the incentive for in-region gasoline production.

The Midwest had 275 000 bpd more operating atmospheric crude distillation unit (ACDU) capacity in April 2014 than a year earlier. This has potentially offset the loss of intra-regional gasoline movements.

Record high runs in the region of 3.8 million bpd for the week ending 11 July pushed PADD 2 utilisation to 100.3%, the first time any PADD has exceeded 100% since EIA began publishing PADD level utilisation in June 2010.

Gulf Coast refining

Capacity expansions on the Gulf Coast have pushed PADD 3 runs to record levels. Trade press reports that Motiva Port Arthur’s expansion became fully operational in late June, enabling the facility to run more than 600 000 bpd of gross inputs. This boost led to PADD 3 gross inputs of 8.5 million bpd for the week ending 27 June and reaching 8.7 million bpd for each of the following two weeks. This is only 1000 bpd lower than the record level, set on 20 December 2013.

According to the EIA, the US remains an increasingly active participant in the global petroleum products trade. The Gulf Coast region’s competitive advantage based on heavy upgrading capacity, cost advantaged input and fuel costs, and access to growing markets keeps utilisation rates high.

US petroleum demand

Throughput April 2014, US demand for petroleum products was 187 000 bpd higher than a year ago. Consumption of motor gasoline and distillate increased by 180 000 bpd and 114 000 bpd, respectively, outweighing a decline in consumption of all other products (equivalent to 107 000 bpd). According to the EIA, given the increase in domestic demand, rising exports, and expanded refinery capacity, recent record refinery runs may soon be surpassed.

Adapted from a press release by Emma McAleavey.

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