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December 10, 2020

U.S. petroleum refining capacity falls to its lowest level since May 2016

monthly U.S. atmospheric crude oil distillation capacity
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Petroleum Supply Monthly

As of September 1 (the latest data available), the United States had 18.4 million barrels per calendar day (b/cd) of petroleum refining capacity, also known as operable atmospheric crude oil distillation capacity. U.S. refining capacity had reached a record high of nearly 19.0 million b/cd earlier this year, but several refineries have closed since then, and capacity fell to the lowest level since May 2016.

Operable refinery capacity is the amount of capacity that is in operation or could be brought into production within 90 days. Earlier this year, operable refinery capacity declined by 335,000 b/cd from April to May after the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery in Pennsylvania closed. Operable capacity fell another 19,000 b/cd in June when Marathon’s refinery in Dickinson, North Dakota, closed to be converted to a renewable diesel plant.

The further decline in operable capacity as of September 1 reflected three recent refinery closures in Wyoming, California, and New Mexico:

  • HollyFrontier shut all units as of the end of August at its 48,000 b/cd refinery in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  It stopped petroleum refining operations but plans to resume operations in 2022 as a renewable diesel processing plant. 
  • Marathon announced plans in August to indefinitely shutter two facilities: the 161,000 b/cd refinery in Martinez, California, and the 27,000 b/cd refinery in Gallup, New Mexico. Marathon attributed the closures to reduced petroleum demand in 2020. In October, the company announced that it is evaluating plans to convert the Martinez refinery to a renewable diesel facility.

In its annual Refinery Capacity Report, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) surveys U.S. refineries’ capacities, operating status, plans for expansion, and other details as of the first day of the year. EIA also publishes monthly capacity and utilization values for the United States, 5 regions (Petroleum Administration for Defense Districts, or PADDs), and 10 subregions (sub-PADD refining districts) as part of its Petroleum Supply Monthly.

Principal contributor: Julie Harris