U.S. Refiners Plot $900 Million in First-Quarter Maintenance Amid Demand Struggles
U.S. refineries have increased their runs following a low in April, but the COVID-19 pandemic and seasonal factors continue to hold those runs below the 2015-19 average, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. At the end of October, U.S. runs stood at 14 million barrels per day, about 13% below the average. With such market conditions hindering development, regular maintenance is as important as ever. Industrial Info is tracking 55 planned maintenance-related projects at U.S. refineries that are set to kick off from January through March, with a total investment value of nearly $900 million.
The single refinery that is seeing the most activity, maintenance or otherwise, in the first quarter is HollyFrontier Corporation's (NYSE:HFC) (Dallas, Texas) Navajo Refinery in Artesia, New Mexico. HollyFrontier is preparing to begin construction on a renewable diesel unit (RDU) at the facility, but also is readying for a series of maintenance projects:
- the Fluid Catalytic Cracking Unit (FCCU) and Hydrofluoric Alkylation (HF Alky) unit; see project report
- crude and vacuum units; see project report
- a gas-oil hydrotreater unit; see project report
- a hydrocracker unit; see project report
- a diesel hydrotreater unit; see project report
- reformer and reformer feed hydrotreater units; see project report
- a kerosene desulfurizer unit; see project report
- an isomerization unit; see project report
- sulfur recovery units; see project report
HollyFrontier's project outlook defies current trends in the energy market in its aggressive bet on a post-pandemic recovery. For more information on the company's capital-spending plans for the coming year, see December 9, 2020, article - HollyFrontier Doubles Capital Spending in 2021, Accelerates Renewable Diesel Efforts.
Phillips 66 (NYSE:PSX) (Houston, Texas), another leading spender, is looking at a half-dozen maintenance projects set to kick off in the first quarter, including two at subsidiary WRB Refining LP's Wood River Refinery in Roxana, Illinois: one for the 170,000-barrel-per-day (BBL/d) Crude Distillation Unit 1 (CDU 1), and another for the FCCU 2 and Sulfuric Alkylation (SF Alky) Unit, which have capacities of 48,000 and 21,000 BBL/d, respectively. The FCCU 2/SF Alky turnaround had been set for the third quarter of 2020, but was delayed due to COVID-19 precautions. For more information, see Industrial Info's reports on the CDU 1 and FCCU 2/SF Alky projects.
Phillips 66 also is preparing for a turnaround on the FCCU 1/SF Alky units at its Los Angeles Refinery in Wilmington, California, which have capacities of 50,000 and 15,000 BBL/d, respectively. The same city is home to Valero Energy Corporation's (NYSE:VLO) (San Antonio, Texas) planned turnaround on the crude and coker units at its Wilmington Refinery, which have capacities of 40,000 and 18,000 BBL/d, respectively. For more information, see Industrial Info's reports on the Phillips 66 and Valero projects.
Valero's refinery in Memphis, Tennessee, is preparing for a trio of turnarounds on three major components: the 110,000-BBL/d Crude East Unit, the 36,000-BBL/d continuous catalytic reformer (CCR), and a storage tank farm with a dozen tanks. Joseph Gorder, the chief executive officer of Valero, noted in a quarterly earnings-related conference call at the end of October that pandemic-related restrictions on movement and day-to-day activities across the globe have dampened demand for finished refinery products, creating less incentive to produce crude oil and narrowing crude oil discounts when compared with last year. For more information, see Industrial Info's reports on the Crude East, CCR and tank farm projects.
But Gorder also pointed to an improving outlook for the Petroleum Refining Industry: "U.S. gasoline inventory is already in the middle of the five-year range. And although distillate inventory is higher than the five-year range, it's been trending downwards in recent weeks. Diesel demand should continue to improve, supported by winter heating oil demand and harvest season."
He added: "Oil refinery turnarounds, coupled with recently announced and anticipated closures or conversions of less advantage refineries, should also further balance supply."