Gasoline Falls as End of Refinery Work Signals Higher Production

May 19, 2014 3:35 pm ET

May 19 (Bloomberg) -- Gasoline futures retreated from a two-week high in New York as U.S. refineries completed maintenance, signaling an increase in production of motor fuel.

Futures slipped 0.3 percent. Motiva Enterprises LLC returned its Norco, Louisiana, refinery to normal operations following planned work, while Exxon Mobil Corp.’s Chalmette site, also in Louisiana, was expected to complete work. The June contract’s premium over July narrowed.

“Nearly every catalytic cracker is now back up and running and that’s at the heart of refinery gasoline production,” said Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates LLC in Houston. “We have some crude units still down but as that work wraps up, we’ll see further increases, especially for diesel.”

Gasoline for delivery in June fell 0.89 cent to settle at $2.9646 a gallon at on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The June-July spread narrowed 0.25 cent to 1.55 cents a gallon.

U.S. gasoline production increased to 9.61 million barrels a day in the week ended May 9, the most since December, Energy Information Administration data show.

Stockpiles in the Central Atlantic region, which includes New York Harbor, the delivery point for Nymex futures, grew 781,000 barrels to 28.5 million in the same period, a second consecutive advance.

Refinery Work

Exxon’s Chalmette refinery began planned work on the No. 2 crude unit and a coker near the end of April. The company’s Beaumont, Texas, plant also removed a crude unit from service for several weeks of work, the company said on April 22.

Motiva’s Port Arthur, Texas, refinery, the largest in the U.S., was expected to restart a hydrocracker May 14, according to a person familiar with operations.

Gasoline’s crack spread versus West Texas Intermediate crude declined 96 cents to $21.90 a barrel. The motor fuel’s premium to European benchmark Brent gained 11 cents to $14.49 a barrel.

June-delivery diesel fell 1.27 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $2.9409 a gallon. Diesel’s crack spread versus WTI crude narrowed $1.12 to $20.91 a barrel while the motor fuel’s premium to Brent slipped 12 cents to $13.98.

The average U.S. pump price was unchanged at $3.646 a gallon, according to data from Heathrow, Florida-based AAA. Prices are 0.3 cent below a year ago.