Expected Refinery Run Rate Decline First In A Decade

(September 6, 2019) — U.S. gross inputs to refineries, also known as refinery runs, have increased each year since 2009, most recently reaching a record-high of 17.3 MMbbld in 2018, reports the Energy Information Administration (EIA). However, based on the agency’s monthly refinery-run data through May and the forecast for the remainder of 2019, EIA expects refinery runs to decline and average 17.0 MMbbld this year.

U.S. refinery capacity was at a record-high of 18.8 MMbbld as of Jan. 1, 2019, but EIA’s annual Refinery Capacity Report shows that capacity will not expand significantly during 2019. The agency polls refinery capacity annually, so any changes during a calendar year will not be captured until the next survey at the beginning of the next calendar year.

In late June, damage from an explosion at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) refinery in South Philadelphia led the company to discontinue operations. The PES refinery had the largest refining capacity among East Coast refineries at 335,000 bbld, but it experienced financial strains in recent years. In the six weeks subsequent to the explosion and closure, refinery runs in the East Coast region, defined as Petroleum Administration for Defense District 1, averaged 897,000 bbld, a decline of about 211,000 bbld from their averages in the six weeks before the incident.

U.S. refinery runs typically reach their highest points in the summer when demand for petroleum products, especially motor gasoline, tends to peak.
So far this year, weekly refinery runs have averaged 17.0 MMbbl through Aug. 9, or 1.4% lower than during the same period in 2018. Despite their overall lower rate, however, weekly refinery runs surpassed 18 MMbbld the week ended Aug. 2, a level achieved only seven times in the past decade. In its August Short- Term Energy Outlook, EIA expects refinery runs to average 17.0 MMbbld in 2019, then increase to 17.6 MMbbld in 2020 owing to a rise in both refining capacity and utilization.

(SOURCE: The Weekly Propane Newsletter, Sept. 3, 2019)