As crude spread widens, margins improve for US refiners

Thu Oct 24, 2013 1:49pm EDT
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* WTI-Brent differential crosses $10/barrel threshold

* Wider spread promises higher margins for Midwest refiners

* Gulf Coast refiners also set to gain, thanks to pipelines

* Railroads also stand to benefit

By Swetha Gopinath

Oct 24 (Reuters) - Oil refiners in the United States - including, for the first time, those on the Gulf Coast - are set to gain from a renewed widening of the price gap between the world's two most actively traded crude contracts.

The closely watched spread between U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and European benchmark Brent returned across the $10 per barrel threshold this week.

The price differential evaporated in July for the first time since 2010, and for the next couple of months was at an unusually low $2 to $6 per barrel in favor of Brent.

The widening spread is restoring high margins for Midwest refiners, such as Marathon Petroleum Corp, which refine cheap U.S. crude into gasoline, diesel and other products to be sold at prices linked to the more expensive Brent.   Continued...