Report: U.S. trails in refinery growth
Boom in overseas projects puts U.S. behind and could lead to more gasoline imports, newspaper says.

NEW YORK ( - A surge in oil refinery investment is under way overseas, which could make the United States more reliant on imports of refined products like gasoline and heating oil in coming years, according to a published report.

The Wall Street Journal, citing a study by Wood Mackenzie, a consulting firm based in Edinburgh, Scotland, reported that 100 projects representing as much as 12 million barrels per day (bpd) of added refining capacity could be online by the end of the decade. But most of that capacity is outside the United States, according to the newspaper.

Investment in overseas refinery capacity is expected to outstrip U.S. efforts, according to a published report.
Investment in overseas refinery capacity is expected to outstrip U.S. efforts, according to a published report.

Among the nations looking to increase refining capacity is Saudi Arabia, which the paper reports is looking to build a 400,000 barrels refinery for the export market, as well as moving to expand and upgrade its 400,000 bpd refinery in Rabigh, on its Red Sea coast.

Meanwhile, U.S. oil companies continue to hold back on building refineries despite the increases seen in 2005 in prices for gasoline, heating oil and jet fuel. While regulatory issues are one barrier, oil companies generally see better returns on investment in oil exploration rather than refinery capacity.

The newspaper reports industry executives still describe today's juicy refining profits as temporary. "We don't expect current margins to last long term," Jim Nokes, executive vice president of refining and marketing for ConocoPhillips, told analysts in November, according to the report.

While no new refineries are planned, the American Petroleum Institute has said that its members plan increases in capacity at existing refineries equal to 1 million to 1.3 million barrels of capacity a day in the coming years.

But the newspaper, quoting PFC Energy, a Washington, D.C., consulting firm, says those plans work out to an annual gain of about 300,000 bpd during the next several years, while U.S. demand for products such as gasoline and jet fuel is expected to grow by as much as 200,000 to 400,000 bpd annually during the same period.

The newspaper reports that potentially could keep pressure on gasoline prices and increase the import of refined product.


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