WASHINGTON, July 14 (Reuters) - U.S. oil refining capacity fell for the first time since 2003 as the weak economy reduced demand for gasoline, diesel fuel and other petroleum products, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.
There were 148 refineries at the beginning of this year with an operating capacity of almost 17.6 million barrels per day, down 87,760 bpd from last year, the Energy Department’s analytical arm said. It the was the first decline in total U.S. refining capacity since 2003.
The decline in capacity was due mostly to the shutdown of two refineries, Sunoco’s (SUN.N) 145,000 bpd Eagle Point refinery in Westville, New Jersey and Valero’s (VLO.N) 182,200 bpd Delaware City, Delaware refinery.
Those two shut refineries were offset, in part, by the 180,000 bpd expansion of Marathon’s (MRO.N) Garyville, Louisiana refinery, the agency said.
Going forward, the EIA expects continued excess refining capacity due to higher vehicle fuel efficiency standards and congressional mandates for the U.S to use more renewable fuels that “will limit the potential for growth in petroleum demand.”
Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) replaced Valero as the industry leader in total refining capacity following the shutdown of Valero’s Delaware City plant,
ConocoPhillips (COP.N) and BP Plc (BP.L) were the third and fourth biggest U.S. refiners, respectively, for the fourth year in a row. Marathon Oil Corp (MRO.N) returned to fifth place after the expansion of its Garyville, Louisiana refinery.
These five companies accounted for nearly 46 percent of total U.S. refining capacity, the EIA said. (Reporting by Tom Doggett; Editing by Marguerita Choy)