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Refineries Along with Chemicals and Plastics Plants Invest Heavily in U.S./Take Advantage of Shale Natural Gas, Business and Industry Trends Analysis

The soaring output of both crude oil and natural gas from U.S. fields is having a profound effect on American industry in many ways.  One of the most obvious changes has been an immense amount of investment and construction in the petrochemicals industry-intense Gulf Coast region, designed to take advantage of abundant supply and low prices for natural gas and oil—vital feedstocks to the petrochemicals and plastics industries.
Refineries:  U.S. refineries have modernized and expanded to a massive degree over recent years.  As of January 2023, there were 129 operable refineries in America.  With the boom in shale oil, total capacity at U.S. refineries grew steadily in recent years, thanks to investments made at existing plants.  U.S. refinery capacity was 18.98 million barrels per day as of mid-2020, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.  However, by early 2023, U.S. capacity had risen to 18.1 million barrels per day, compared to 17.9 million barrels per day in early 2022.
Saudi Aramco’s Aramco Trading Company (ATC) acquired U.S. refiner Motiva Trading in January 2023, creating Aramco Trading Americas LLC (ATA).  ATA now oversees the Motiva Port Arthur Manufacturing Complex, one of the largest refineries in the U.S. with a capacity of 630,000 barrels per day.  Elsewhere, Marathon Petroleum Corp invested $3.9 billion to upgrade and expand its Garyville, Louisiana refinery.  Crude output at Garyville reached 596,000 barrels per day as of early 2023.
ExxonMobil Chemicals further increased the capacity of its Beaumont, Texas plant, adding 250,000 barrels per day in a $2 billion expansion in 2023.  Total processing capacity is now in excess of 630,000 barrels per day.
Meanwhile, massive investments are being made in new petrochemical and refinery plants in China, the Middle East and India.  Saudi Arabia has vastly increased the size of its petrochemicals facilities.  Reliance Industries Ltd. invested $6 billion to double its Jamnagar refinery near the Pakistani border, which is now producing at full capacity of 580,000 barrels per day.  A significant share of new refinery construction is in Asia and the Middle East, in nations such as China, India, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore and Kuwait.  One of the leaders in the investment in new refineries is Saudi Aramco.
As new refineries come online, capacity will increase significantly.  Over the long term, a trend toward smaller, more efficient automobiles will also have a strong effect on U.S. gasoline consumption.  Eventually, a large number of cars may be gasoline/electric hybrids or plug-in electric vehicles, and a significant portion of the truck fleet may run on natural gas.  Phillips 66 announced plans to convert an existing oil refinery in San Francisco to biofuels from vegetable oil and animal fat.  The $800 million project is expected to be completed in 2024.
Chemicals and Plastics:  Massive natural gas finds in the U.S. in recent years have sent prices plummeting.  As a result, the U.S. has become one of the world’s most profitable places to manufacture plastics and fertilizer, both of which use natural gas as a feedstock and as an energy source.

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