The Future of the Refining Industry

News release featuring Joseph Israel, a speaker at the Petrochemical & Refining Summit 2017.
Four Seasons Resort & Club Dallas at Las Colinas, Irving, Texas - July 17-19, 2017

"Refining is all about developing flexibility. Every day is a new day in the market, with new opportunities and threats," says Joseph Israel, President & Chief Executive Officer, Par Petroleum, LLC. "Effective refining management continuously develops flexibility rather than trying to guess the future," he adds.

What are the supply and demand dynamics in the refining industry?

Global demand for oil products is strong. The average global demand growth in 2015-2017 is over 70 percent higher than the demand growth seen in the ten years before that, between 2004 and 2014. The relatively low, USD 40-50 per barrel oil price environment is a significant driver, especially for gasoline, jet fuel and fuel oil demand. The improved global industrial production growth at the four percent range is the other important factor, especially on the distillate side. Industrialized countries and emerging markets positively contribute to demand growth, led by China with 20 million new cars per year, consistently generates over 500 thousand barrels per day demand growth, reaching 12-13 million barrels per day market size. On the supply side, with OPEC trying to control production rates, we may see under one million barrels per day of global production growth this year, meaning an under supplied market.

What is your outlook on the US export market, including refineries?

Exports are definitely a viable piece in the foreseeable balance and business model. The demand is out there for US products on a profitable basis and it seems like the industry has found a way to increase utilization rates by over five percent in the past seven years, on a consistent basis, with minimum reliability surprises.

US refineries are going full speed on utilization rates, as the global supply/demand dynamics allow them to do so. On the gasoline front, demand from Latin America is very strong this year with local refineries struggling to maintain 65 percent utilization rates, and in addition, Europe continues to rely on US diesel production. Leveraging their competitive advantages, including hardware complexity, operations efficiency, proximity to crude oil source, low energy cost, and benefiting from low oil prices and contango structure, US refineries continue to build global market share and position themselves as the preferred world oil products suppliers. In 2017, approximately 30 percent of US refineries production is going to export compared to less than 15 percent, seven years ago. This year, the market is expecting global demand growth to outpace refining capacity increase so at least in the short-term, under current demand assumptions, the more efficient global refining capacity should stay fairly utilized.

Crude export from USA is needed to balance quality and exchange domestic light/sweet production with sour/heavy barrels that fit our US refineries better. In addition, the commodity market is sophisticated enough to move barrels around the world to keep crude differentials consistent with economic value. Asia is a solid market for US crude production, especially in times where OPEC decides to hit the brakes.

What strategies would you suggest for succeeding in this business?

Effective refining management continuously develops flexibility rather than trying to guess the future. This is true especially for commercial and configuration aspects. Learning and understanding the dynamics is critical to build a vision and navigate flexibility accordingly.

Contact: Sarin Kouyoumdjian-Gurunlian, Press Manager, marcus evans

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