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North America’s Largest Refinery Restarts Units After Overhaul

The Port Arthur refinery, America’s largest, is set to raise fuel production after its owner, Motiva Enterprises, moved this week to restart units at the 630,000-bpd refinery after planned maintenance that spanned longer than a month, sources with knowledge of the operations told Reuters.

The Port Arthur Refinery, which is also the largest refinery in North America, produces conventional gasoline, commercial aviation fuel, Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel, Export (High Cetane) Diesel, and Texas Low Emissions Diesel. The refinery typically produces 275,000 barrels of branded fuel every day, and 40,000 barrels of base oil per day, according to Motiva Enterprises.

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A planned overhaul began at the large 200,000-bpd crude distillation unit (CDU) at the refinery on September 30, with November indicated as a timeline for the end of maintenance. Motiva Enterprises began restarting that unit on November 8. The CDU was shut down for maintenance together with the 49,000-bpd catalytic reformer 4 (CRU-4) and the lube oil hydrocracker 4 (LHCU-4), and now all those units are being restarted, according to Reuters’ sources.

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In the U.S., diesel and other distillate inventories are at multi-year lows and sitting at around 20% below the five-year average for this time of the year. Some refineries were under maintenance this autumn, reducing the availability of products.  

U.S. refining capacity is now lower than it was before Covid, as operable refinery capacity shrank in 2021 for a second consecutive year to stand at 17.9 million barrels per calendar day as of January 1, 2022, according to EIA estimates. Refiners permanently shut down some refinery capacity at the start of the pandemic when fuel demand plunged, while others closed facilities to convert them into biofuel refineries.

U.S. refiners operated at high capacity rates in the third quarter. Despite a decline in refining margins in recent months, the biggest American refiners continued to post bumper profits for Q3, helped by cheaper sour crude grades and lower costs for natural gas in the United States compared to Europe.    

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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