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This Week in Petroleum

Release Date: April 14, 2021 Next Release Date: April 21, 2021


Planned second-quarter 2021 refinery outages unlikely to significantly affect transportation fuel supplies

According to EIA analysis, planned refinery outages during the second quarter of 2021 are unlikely to cause a significant shortfall in the supply of petroleum products in the United States, particularly transportation fuels including gasoline, jet fuel, and distillate fuel. To avoid supply disruption, refiners usually schedule planned maintenance outages around late autumn or late winter, when U.S. demand for petroleum products is relatively low and product inventories or imports could cover the loss of supply caused by the planned outages. Despite the severe winter storm in mid-February and resulting unplanned refinery outages in the Midwest and Gulf Coast, adequate inventory levels and lower-than-average demand will enable refineries to meet supply requirements even with planned second-quarter refinery outages for maintenance.

The analysis considers planned outages that affect atmospheric crude distillation units, fluidized catalytic cracking units, catalytic reforming units, catalytic hydrocracking units, and coking units, as reported by Industrial Info Resources (IIR).

U.S. refineries have been running at reduced utilization rates since responses to the COVID-19 pandemic reduced U.S. petroleum demand in 2020. Severe winter weather in mid-February 2021 caused petroleum product inventories to decline significantly in the Midwest and Gulf Coast as large unplanned refinery outages resulted in supply disruption. Most affected refineries with unplanned outages resumed normal operations within a few weeks after the storm. Some refineries may have performed minor maintenance procedures during the restart. Since restarting, transportation fuel inventories have increased in the Gulf Coast region (PADD 3). From March 5 through April 9, combined Midwest and Gulf Coast inventories of motor gasoline increased by 4 million barrels (3%), distillate inventories increased by 6 million barrels (8%), and jet fuel inventories remained unchanged, according to EIA’s Weekly Petroleum Status Report (Figure 1).

Figure 1. U.S. Midwest and Gulf Coast transportation fuel inventories, January–April 2021

The severe winter weather in February affected many refineries in the Gulf Coast and Midwest, including all major refineries in the Texas Gulf Coast region. However, because refiners exercised orderly shutdowns and restarts before and after the storm, the Texas Gulf Coast refineries have not reported any significant damage during the restart processes. As of March 13, 2021, all unit outages as a result of the winter storm in the Texas Gulf Coast refining region had returned to normal service (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Texas Gulf Coast refinery shutdown, February–March 2021

Planned outages in the Gulf Coast region for the second quarter of 2021 are less than 5% of the region’s capacity. The region’s total petroleum product inventory is higher than the 10-year (2011–2020) average and will likely be sufficient to offset the lost production from planned outages. The Gulf Coast region contains more than half of U.S. refining capacity, and as a result, the region produces far more petroleum products than it consumes. The region's surplus production supplies other U.S. regions, notably the East Coast and the Midwest, as well as international markets.

Table 1. Gulf Coast (PADD 3) planned refinery capacity outages, second-quarter 2021

Planned outages in the Midwest region for the second quarter of 2021 are near or higher than the 10-year average. Regional petroleum product inventories are also lower than average. The Midwest has 22% of the nation's refining capacity and accounts for 29% of total U.S. demand for petroleum products. As a result, Midwest refineries produce most of the gasoline and distillate fuel consumed in the region, but the region also receives supplies from the Gulf Coast. Although inventories are lower than average and planned maintenance is higher than average, EIA does not expect inadequate supplies of gasoline, distillate, or jet fuel during the second quarter of 2021 in the Midwest, absent an unanticipated event limiting petroleum supply operations.

Table 2. Midwest (PADD 2) planned refinery capacity outages, second-quarter 2021

U.S. average regular gasoline and diesel prices decrease

The U.S. average regular gasoline retail price decreased nearly 1 cent to $2.85 per gallon on April 12, almost $1.00 higher than the same time last year. The Midwest price decreased nearly 3 cents to $2.75 per gallon, the East Coast price decreased more than 1 cent to $2.75 per gallon, and the Gulf Coast price decreased 1 cent to $2.58 per gallon. The West Coast price increased 2 cents to $3.51 per gallon, and the Rocky Mountain price increased less than 1 cent, remaining virtually unchanged at $2.95 per gallon.

The U.S. average diesel fuel price decreased nearly 2 cents to $3.13 per gallon on April 12, 62 cents higher than a year ago. The Rocky Mountain and Midwest prices each decreased more 2 cents to $3.26 per gallon and $3.06 per gallon, respectively, the East Coast price decreased more than 1 cent to $3.10 per gallon, the Gulf Coast price decreased 1 cent to $2.92 per gallon, and the West Coast price decreased nearly 1 cent to $3.64 per gallon.

Propane/propylene inventories rise

U.S. propane/propylene stocks increased by 1.0 million barrels last week to 40.6 million barrels as of April 9, 2021, 8.0 million barrels (16.4%) less than the five-year (2016-2020) average inventory levels for this same time of year. Midwest, Gulf Coast, and Rocky Mountain/West Coast inventories increased by 0.9 million barrels, 0.4 million barrels, and 0.3 million barrels, respectively. East Coast inventories decreased by 0.6 million barrels.

For questions about This Week in Petroleum, contact the Petroleum Markets Team at 202-586-4522.

Tags: outages , PADD 2 , PADD 3 , refining

  • Retail prices (dollars per gallon)

Retail price graphs
  Retail prices Change from last
  04/12/21 Week Year
Click to chart this seriesGasoline 2.849 -0.008up-arrow 0.996up-arrow
Click to chart this seriesDiesel 3.129 -0.015down-arrow 0.622up-arrow
  • Futures prices (dollars per gallon*)

Futures price graphs
  Futures prices Change from last
  04/09/21 Week Year
Click to chart this seriesCrude oil 59.32 NAno_change-arrow NAno_change-arrow
Click to chart this seriesGasoline 1.962 NAno_change-arrow NAno_change-arrow
Click to chart this seriesHeating oil 1.808 NAno_change-arrow NAno_change-arrow
*Note: Crude oil price in dollars per barrel.
Markets were closed on 4/10/2020 and 4/2/2021.
  • Stocks (million barrels)

Stock price graphs
  Stocks Change from last
  04/09/21 Week Year
Click to chart this seriesCrude oil 492.4 -5.9down-arrow -11.2down-arrow
Click to chart this seriesGasoline 234.9 0.3up-arrow -27.3down-arrow
Click to chart this seriesDistillate 143.5 -2.1down-arrow 14.5up-arrow
Click to chart this seriesPropane 40.588 1.016up-arrow -16.192down-arrow