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US refining capacity falls

Published by , Senior Editor
Hydrocarbon Engineering,

As of 1 September 2020 (the latest data available), the US had 18.4 million barrels per calendar day (b/cd) of petroleum refining capacity, also known as operable atmospheric crude oil distillation capacity, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).

US refining capacity had reached a record high of nearly 19 million b/cd earlier this year, but several refineries have closed since then, and capacity fell to the lowest level since May 2016.

Operable refinery capacity is the amount of capacity that is in operation or could be brought into production within 90 days. Earlier this year, operable refinery capacity declined by 335 000 b/cd from April to May after the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery in Pennsylvania closed. Operable capacity fell another 19 000 b/cd in June when Marathon’s refinery in Dickinson, North Dakota, closed to be converted to a renewable diesel plant.

The further decline in operable capacity as of 1 September reflected three recent refinery closures in Wyoming, California, and New Mexico:

  • HollyFrontier shut all units as of the end of August at its 48 000 b/cd refinery in Cheyenne, Wyoming. It stopped petroleum refining operations but plans to resume operations in 2022 as a renewable diesel processing plant.
  • Marathon announced plans in August to indefinitely shutter two facilities: the 161 000 b/cd refinery in Martinez, California, and the 27 000 b/cd refinery in Gallup, New Mexico. Marathon attributed the closures to reduced petroleum demand in 2020. In October, the company announced that it is evaluating plans to convert the Martinez refinery to a renewable diesel facility.

In its annual ‘Refinery Capacity Report’, the EIA surveys US refineries’ capacities, operating status, plans for expansion, and other details as of the first day of the year. EIA also publishes monthly capacity and utilisation values for the US, five regions (Petroleum Administration for Defense Districts, or PADDs), and 10 subregions (sub-PADD refining districts) as part of its ‘Petroleum Supply Monthly’.

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