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Tight-oil Tightrope for U.S. Refiners

By Chemical Engineering |

North American production of crude oil, driven by a rapid increase in output of “tight oil” from U.S. shale deposits like Bakken and Eagle Ford, is surging. In many, but not all areas, petroleum refiners are incorporating an increasing amount of this cost-advantaged feedstock into their crude-oil-processing slates to capitalize on its discounted price, which is partly a result of a lack of sufficient takeaway infrastructure and a ban on exporting crude oil from the U.S. At the annual meeting of the American Fuels and Petrochemicals Manufacturers (AFPM; Washington, D.C.; www.afpm.org), held in March in Orlando, Fla., Sam Davis, an analyst with Wood MacKenzie (Edinburgh, U.K.; www.woodmac.com), said “We have seen a definite shift in behavior on the part of petroleum refiners that is driven by tight oil — the crude slate is changing to lighter and sweeter feedstocks.” U.S. Gulf Coast refiners are no longer processing imported light, low-sulfur crude oil; rather they are processing domestic light, sweet crudes, Davis said, and while East Coast refiners are still handling imported oil, an increasing amount of crude oil from the Bakken formation is making its way east. While the discounted price of tight-oil…
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