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U.S. Refiners Set to Report Strong Q1 Earnings

Disruptions to global oil product flows, still strong refining margins, and lowered U.S. refinery utilization are expected to have bolstered the quarterly earnings of American oil refiners in the first quarter of 2024, analysts told Reuters.

Profits are expected to be lower than in 2022 when the Russian invasion of Ukraine upended markets and pushed up refining margins, but U.S. refiners are still set to report in the coming days strong earnings for the first quarter of the year.

“It is going to be another really strong quarter,” TD Cowen analyst Jason Gabelman told Reuters.

As fuel demand grows in the summer, the quarterly profits in the second and third quarters are expected to rise compared to Q1, analysts say.

The lower Russian refining capacity due to Ukrainian drone attacks has pushed global refining margins higher at the start of this year and has tightened some regional fuel markets.

In addition, margins in the U.S. were also boosted by planned and unplanned outages at refineries, including the Whiting, Indiana, refinery of BP, which was shut for most of February and half of March after a power outage prompted a temporary shut down of the facility. The 435,000 barrels-per-day refinery, the largest refining complex in the Midwest, was offline for around six weeks, pushing U.S. fuel supply and refinery utilization lower in the first quarter of 2024.

U.S. refinery utilization fell to as low as 81% during the two weeks ending February 9 and February 16, and briefly dropped below the five-year (2019–23) low. The sharp decline in refinery utilization was the result of reduced plant operations in the Midwest and Gulf Coast regions and more intense seasonal patterns, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said last month.

All these factors are expected to have boosted refining margins for U.S. refiners, which begin reporting Q1 earnings on Thursday with Valero Energy.

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By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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