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Philadelphia Refinery Woe Boosts U.S. East Coast Margins


By Harkiran Dhillon

U.S. East Coast refining margins have more than doubled in the past month, helped by weakening physical crude markets and a fire that crippled the biggest facility in the region.Last week, Philadelphia Energy Solutions announced it plans to close after a fire in late June, it’s second that month, destroyed most of an alkylation unit, which makes high-octane gasoline. The complex processed 335,000 barrels of crude a day and supplied about 3% of gasoline demand in the region.

Profit jumps after biggest East Coast refinery shuts

While the profit margin of refining West African Forcados crude in the region was showing signs of recovery earlier in the month, the catalytic cracking margin jumped about 68% after the latest fire, according to Oil Analytics data. Gasoline prices have risen to attract more supply from the U.S. Gulf Coast and overseas, particularly Europe.

“With the closure of the refinery, now all that product isn’t being made so there’s the expectation of a shortage of supply and a tight market,” said Sandy Fielden, director of Oil and Products Research at Morningstar Energy Commodities. “That’s leading to higher prices for gas and thus higher margins for refineries.”

One beneficiary has been PBF Energy Inc, which has taken over the position of the largest East Coast refiner. Its shares have surged about 14% since June 20, compared with about 5.4% for a Bloomberg Intelligence index of North American refiners.

Read for more on the increase in European fuel cargoes heading to America

Margins may have further to rise if a unit that shut Friday at Irving Oil Ltd.’s St. John refinery in New Brunswick, Canada, is down for an extended period. Irving’s refinery, the largest in Canada, is a key supplier of gasoline and diesel to New England. European refiners may reap the rewards, as the increase in demand for cargoes for export to the U.S. supports gasoline margins there.



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