WRAPUP 2-Cheaper crude and fuel exports help U.S. refiners' profits

Wed Jan 29, 2014 4:28pm EST
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By Kristen Hays and Anna Driver

HOUSTON Jan 29 (Reuters) - Marathon Petroleum Corp, Valero Energy Corp and Phillips 66, the three largest U.S. independent refiners, reported quarterly results on Wednesday that topped Wall Street estimates as cheaper crude prices and rising exports helped profits.

Sour crudes from Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Texas and the U.S. Gulf of Mexico contributed to the lower prices, along with the opening of more pipeline capacity throughout 2013 that increased flows of cheaper inland U.S. crudes to Gulf Coast refineries - replacing some types of more expensive imports.

New infrastructure - built in large part to handle surging output of unconventional North American crudes from shale deposits and Canada's oil sands - has benefited plants on the Gulf Coast, home to more than 40 percent of U.S. refining capacity.

Many of those refineries have ramped up exports of fuels to Europe and Latin America, where demand is surging because of a lack of local refining capacity.

Marathon more than doubled its refined product exports to 298,000 barrels per day in the fourth quarter from year-ago levels, and aims to increase that capacity to 400,000 bpd. Phillips 66's exports reached 197,000 bpd, a 32 percent rise on the year and toward its goal of 500,000 bpd of export capacity.

U.S. officials said exports of refined products hit a record 3.66 million bpd last week.

"Gulf Coast refiners are the best positioned to benefit from price-advantaged North American crudes and the global refined product market," Roger Read, a refining analyst at Wells Fargo, told clients on Wednesday.   Continued...