US refinery utilisation dips amid soft demand

Author: Michael Sims

2020/11/12

HOUSTON (ICIS)--US refinery rates decreased by 0.8 percentage points in the week ended 6 November, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Thursday.

US refinery utilisation remains well below the three-year median of around 90%, amid continued weak gasoline demand.

Demand for gasoline typically lessens in the fall and into the winter as consumers stay off the roads, resulting in refineries lowering their runs to compensate.

The gasoline market was so oversupplied through 2020 that utilisation rates often did not have much further to fall when the refineries were idled during the hurricanes in the US Gulf. The need to reduce rates or shut refineries happened so frequently that it allowed for a significant draw in gasoline inventories despite the record-low demand. Inventories are now considered to be at fairly normal levels for this time of year.

Demand for jet fuel, however, is showing some signs of recovery on US holiday travel.

Consumers in the US tend to travel to see family for Thanksgiving and Christmas, although the current rise of coronavirus cases could put a lid on any expected gains in demand.

Low refinery utilisation also has ramifications for the petrochemicals industry, because important feedstocks like propane, butane, refinery-grade propylene (RGP) and aromatics are produced in refineries.

Partially as a result, US propylene is likely to face supply tightness through North American winter