All eyes are on Hurricane Ian, which is expected to approach Florida’s west coast later Wednesday and into Thursday bringing high winds and massive amounts of rain. Although our nation’s refiners and petrochemical manufacturers do not have facilities in the affected region, we’d like to urge the people in the area to prepare for the storm and heed all evacuation notices. Florida residents can get critical preparedness and evacuation information here.
The return of fuel demand to pre-pandemic levels and the slower rebound of crude oil and fuel production has created concerns about whether supplies of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel will be sufficient to meet global demand. U.S. refineries are up and running at near maximum utilization. Other major refining countries, for a variety of reasons, have not kept pace bringing their facilities back into operation or resuming sales of fuel to the market. As a result, wholesale fuel prices have increased and so have refinery “crack spreads."
Refinery utilization, measures how much crude oil refineries are processing or “running” as a percentage of their maximum capacity. It tells us roughly how much of our refining muscle is being put to work manufacturing fuel. American refineries are running full-out, at about 95% of total capacity, contributing more fuel—gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, etc.—to the global market than any other country. In fact, U.S. refineries process more crude oil every day than the United States produces, and we make more finished fuels than the United States consumes.
Some policymakers are rumored to be considering a ban on crude oil and/or U.S. refined product exports. This would be a mistake. Ending U.S. crude oil or refined product exports won’t help U.S. consumers by lowering prices at pump. In fact, it could make things even worse. Let’s take a closer look at how a refined product export ban would affect gasoline and diesel supplies and, thus, prices in the United States and around the world.
AFPM President and CEO Chet Thompson and API President and CEO Mike Sommers sent a letter to President Biden responding to recent letters the Administration sent to major U.S. fuel refiners suggesting that these companies, their workforces and facilities throughout the country aren’t doing their part to bring fuel to the market and lower energy costs for consumers.
We are surprised and disappointed by the President’s letter. Any suggestion that U.S. refiners are not doing our part to bring stability to the market is false. We would encourage the Administration to look inward to better understand the role their policies and hostile rhetoric have played in the current environment.
The United States has the most complex and efficient refining industry in the world, but we also have less refining capacity than we used to. Where the issue of refining capacity is concerned, it’s important to understand what refining capacity is, why we’ve lost capacity in the United States and how policies can advance the competitiveness of our refineries in the global market.
COVID-19 upended energy markets. Demand disappeared and producers scaled back. Now that economies are reopening, and the demand for goods and services is rebounding, the demand for energy all along the supply chain is increasing, driving up not only the cost of the feedstocks and fuels refineries and petrochemical manufacturers use, but also the cost of the energy used at every step of the supply chain.
Beyond digitization (converting analog information to digital) and digitalization (the technology-driven shift to business processes) lies digital transformation.