Oil Refining Industry Can’t Keep Up With Demand

Oil Refining Industry Can’t Keep Up With Demand

The price of global refined products are soaring—even more so than crude oil itself, as demand for those refined products is proving too much for refiners to keep up with, according to a new analysis by Vortexa.

Inventories of refined products are now near historic lows—and given the refining maintenance season that will soon be upon Asia and Europe, it doesn’t look that those historical lows are going to ease substantially.

Most refiners in Asia and Europe enter their refining maintenance season in Q2. But so far, Vortexa says, there is no indication that those refineries have plans to ramp up production ahead of maintenance season to provide a cushion to survive turnaround.

What this means is that today’s tightening may soon grow even tighter.

One might find it surprising that today’s high global refined products prices aren’t enticing refiners to up their runs. But higher costs for refiners as a result of higher natural gas prices, higher crude oil prices, and higher carbon tax costs in Europe are sucking up the extra cracks.

In the United States, gasoline supplies are also low—and falling–in part due to refinery and FCC maintenance in Q1.

Around the world, spare refining capacity is not widely available. According to Vortexa, Japan is one of the few countries with refining capacity to spare, but even Japan has, over the last two months, increased run rates by 40% compared to June 2021. Mexico has some spare capacity as well, but it hasn’t tapped that capacity in years, and China has spare capacity, but China’s spare capacity is tightly controlled by the Chinese government.

It’s likely that only a greater increase in refined products prices could entice China and Mexico to bring some of that capacity back online.

Oilprice by Julianne Geiger, February 21, 2022