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Oil Refineries in 2013
The O&G sector has seen an increase in volatility over the past five years. Prices were the most extreme from 2008 to 2009 due to the global financial crisis and the recession that followed thereafter. The price of Brent crude dropped from a high of around $150 to a low of $40 during that time period, and the price of natural gas dropped from a high of $13 to under $3. However, by 2010, the price of oil has stabilized and strengthened, and recovery was well underway.

The outlook for the O&G downstream sector has been mostly negative since the recession. The rise in crude prices along with the decline in demand to a 15 year low led to weaker margins for oil refineries. Refineries simply could not pass on the higher cost to consumers resulting in the shutdown of a large number of refineries that are losing millions each week. As such, the refining industry is undergoing a regional change with much of the business being diverted to the Midwest. The Sunoco plant in Marcus Hook, PA and the ConocoPhillips plant in Trainer, PA were both shut down due to cost-cutting measures. Together, they account for 20% of the gasoline that is produced in the Northeast.

The refinery plants in the Northeast are only able to refine Brent crude which is easier to refine, but the crude is becoming more expensive. The refineries in the Midwest are able to refine the crude that comes down from Canada. This is a heavier type of crude, but is cheaper than Brent. In addition, the Midwest refineries also have access to WTI crude, which is similar to Brent but produced in the US. Refineries in the Northeast do not have access to WTI, leaving them at a huge disadvantage as WTI trades at $106 while the Brent trades at over $120 at the time. That difference is a big reason why the refineries in the Northeast are suffering.

The oil refining…...

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