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Ohio-based oil refiner Marathon Petroleum (MPC) saw its Q4 profits exceed analyst expectations, the company reported on Tuesday—thanks in part to OPEC's production cuts.
The U.S. refiner reported a net income of $3.84 per share—or $1.5 billion—for the last quarter of 2023, while analysts estimated a figure far lower, at just $2.20 per share. This overachievement came even as global refining capacity increased, thanks to production cuts by OPEC+ combined with healthy demand, which helped to offset struggling fuel prices.
Marathon's crude oil capacity utilization came in at 91%, for a total throughput of 2.9 million bpd for Q4, while net income attributable to company settled at $1.45 billion. This compares with $3.32 billion in Q4 2022.
In June, OPEC+ agreed to extend its agreed-upon oil production cuts of 3.66 million barrels per day—a figure that was roughly equal to 5% of global demand. Saudi Arabia also agreed to voluntarily cut an additional million bpd, and Russia agreed to curb exports voluntarily by another 300,000 bpd. This created a tight fuel supply from which U.S. refiners were happy to benefit.
MPC said on Tuesday that it would cut capital spending by 3.8% to $1.25 billion. "In 2023, the business generated $14.1B of net cash from operations, driven by strong operational performance and commercial execution. This enabled the return of $12.8B of capital to shareholders," MPC's CEL Michael Hennigan said.
Marathon Petroleum is forecasting total throughput of 2.685 million bpd for 2024 Q1, with direct operating costs of $5.85 billion. Marathon is planning improvements at its Los Angeles refinery—the largest refinery on the West Coast with a capacity of 363,000 bpd. It refines heavy crude from California and crude from Alaska's North Slope, South America, West Africa, and others. It produces cleaner CARB gasoline and diesel, in addition to traditional gasoline and distillates, among other varieties.
Meanwhile, OPEC+ is continuing its 2023 production cuts into Q1 2024—and then some.
By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com
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Julianne Geiger is a veteran editor, writer and researcher for Oilprice.com, and a member of the Creative Professionals Networking Group.