US refinery output increases

Mar 14 2014

Despite the decline in US domestic product demand, the country’s refining utilization levels have increased significantly in the last few years.

This growth is on the back of overseas interests, requesting US products, growing by about 70% since 2009, said an analyst with research and consulting firm GlobalData.

According to Carmine Rositano, GlobalData's managing analyst covering downstream oil & gas, the US refining utilisation averaged around 83% in 2009, increasing to around 89% in 2013.

A 1% growth translates into 175,000 barrels per day, meaning that the US’ 6% increase in refining utilisation results in one million barrels per day of higher refining runs, the analyst said.

Rositano said: “Since there is minimal, if any, increase in US oil demand expected over the next few years, keeping product export levels high and maintaining growth is key to the financial health of America’s refining industry.”

GlobalData said that South America is currently one of the main importers of the country’s gasoline and diesel, as the growth in product demand has significantly outpaced product supply increases.

The analyst said: “The closure of both the Aruba and Hovensa refineries in South America, combined with a lack of major refinery expansions and the persistent refining reliability issues, have all played a role in reducing product supply availability in the region.”

The US Gulf Coast refining industry is also seeing demand from European countries for ultra low sulphur diesel. In addition, the US is exporting high volumes of propane and propylene to Asian countries.

With refining utilisation at high levels, Rositano believed that the ability to continue increasing product export levels from the US will be based on planned new capacity additions, both for condensate splitters and crude distillation units (CDUs).

“While this will increase product volumes available for exports, competition from other supply sources based on CDU additions in Asia and the Middle East, as well as upgrade units around the world, will determine the profitability and viability to export,” the analyst concluded.

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