Webinar in Review: Global Refining's Role in the Appetite for Oil Demand
In a recent webinar regarding the Global Refining Industry, IIR Energy pointed to just less than $100 billion in global refining projects that are under construction, with another $257 billion that are in the planning and engineering stages that are planned to kick off in the next two years, although not all of these projects will make it to construction. Of these projects in the planning and engineering stage, Southeast Asia, with $61.1 billion in projects, leads the world in terms of potential refining activity, followed by East Asia, with $42 billion, and North America, with $34.8 billion. The leaders of the webinar asked, where will the oil come from to fill these refineries?
David Elpers, part of the IIR Energy Group, pointed out that not all of the refining activity is for grassroot refineries or crude distillation unit additions. Much is for upgrading units such as cokers and hydrocracking units, in an effort to get the most out of the entire barrel of crude oil and do it in the cleanest way possible. Most of this activity is taking place in Asia, allowing heavier oils to move overwhelmingly to the East. Similarly, most recent major projects around the U.S. Gulf Coast have been to broaden refineries' crude slates. Condensate splitters have also accounted for much project activity in the region.
Elpers points to major North American pipeline approvals as being one avenue of to supply the growth in the Global Refining Industry. In particular, he pointed to Kinder Morgan Incorporated's (NYSE:KMI) (Houston, Texas) Trans Mountain Pipeline, which will deliver Canadian crude to the country's west coast for export, and Enbridge Incorporated's (NSYE:ENB) (Calgary, Alberta) Line 3 Replacement project, which will increase the flow of Canadian oil to the U.S. In addition, the Keystone XL Pipeline and Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) also will move more oil from Canada and the U.S. Upper Midwest to the U.S. Gulf Coast.
"With the increased crude oil pipeline connectivity coming from Canada, there is a potential for there to be even more oil in the Gulf Coast than these refineries can even consume," said Elpers. "As these pipelines coming from Canada through the United States are constructed, as they begin to get filled, will the North American domestic refining market be enough to consume the extra barrels coming from these regions? ...I don't think so."
With oil being exported from Canada's west coast and an excess of oil making its way to the U.S. Gulf Coast, some of these barrels will almost definitely end up feeding global refining capacity. "I think we'll see as we move forward, with the allowance of crude oil exports out the United States, we will see start to see that this pipeline connectivity will result in a bypass of sorts of the U.S. Refining Industry, and these North American crude oils will find themselves in locations they've never seen before, maybe in the East," said Elpers.
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