The world still needs massive investment—all along the supply chain—to keep future price spikes from occurring and for countries to improve their energy security. But many in the industry have become more restrained in making big investments.
The structural shift in the U.S. refined products markets throughout this decade—with the U.S. becoming a net exporter—has benefited consumers, the country’s manufacturing sector, and the trade balance.
Small independent refineries in China thrived in 2015 and 2016 as a result of low crude prices and high exports of refined products, but the road ahead looks bumpier as analysts see consolidation in the country's downstream sector.
The possibility that Russia may soon own refineries in the U.S. if Venezuela’s PDVSA defaults on its loans from Rosneft has pushed the risks of foreign-owned energy assets in the U.S. into the spotlight. As of now, some 30 percent of U.S. refining capacity is owned by foreign companies.
Big merchant traders like Vitol, Trafigura, and Glencore are expected to aggressively explore opportunities to grow in order to diversify their asset and customer bases and mitigate risk.
Sharp growth in the downstream sector could simply shift the gigantic surplus of crude to the refined products market, undermining profit margins in all regions.
Snapping up refining capacity in the U.S. and elsewhere allows the Saudis to develop guaranteed outlets for its crude supply at a time the oil market is oversaturated and becoming more competitive.
The second quarter saw a remarkable plunge in refining margins, taking away the one source of comfort for the integrated oil majors.
Market conditions had been mostly kind to U.S. refiners over the past five years, but current oversupply of refined products, excess downstream capacity, and tight spreads between the two major benchmarks have considerably changed the outlook.
With China's economy slowing, India has stepped up as the world's main center of oil demand growth. This means its thirst for crude oil imports will continue to grow.