Refinery closures decreased U.S. refinery capacity during 2020

As a result of several U.S. refinery closures in 2020, U.S. operable atmospheric crude oil distillation capacity, the primary measure of refinery capacity in the United States, dropped 4.5% to a total of 18.1 MMbpd at the start of 2021. The end-of-year 2020 total is 0.8 million bpd less than the 19.0 million bpd of refining capacity at the start of 2020. According to the data in our annual Refinery Capacity Report, the beginning of 2021 marks the lowest annual capacity figure to start the year since 2015. Based on information reported to us in our recent update, U.S. refining capacity will not expand significantly during 2021.

At the beginning of 2021, 129 refineries were either operating or idle in the United States (excluding U.S. territories), down from 135 operable refineries listed at the beginning of 2020. The additional refinery closures in the 2021 Refinery Capacity Report largely reflect the impact of responses to COVID-19 on the U.S. refining sector.

In 2019, the 335,000 bpd Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) refinery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, experienced a major refinery incident. It has not resumed operation since the incident. We listed the facility as idle in the 2020 Refinery Capacity Report because the decision to permanently close the facility was not final. As of January 1, 2021, we considered the refinery to be permanently closed, and it is not included in our 2021 report.

In 2020, the pandemic contributed to a substantial decrease in demand for motor fuels and refined petroleum products, which put downward pressure on refinery margins and made market conditions more challenging for refinery operators. In addition to challenging market conditions, increasing market interest in renewable diesel production and pre-existing plans to scale down or reconfigure petroleum refineries all contributed to the closing of a handful of refineries in 2020.

We removed the following refineries from total U.S. operable capacity after they closed:

  • The Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: 335,000 bpd
  • The Shell refinery in Convent, Louisiana: 211,146 bpd
  • The Tesoro (Marathon) refinery in Martinez, California: 161,000 bpd
  • The HollyFrontier refinery in Cheyenne, Wyoming: 48,000 bpd
  • The Western Refining refinery in Gallup, New Mexico: 27,000 bpd
  • The Dakota Prairie refinery in Dickinson, North Dakota: 19,000 bpd

We measure refinery capacity in two ways: barrels per calendar day and barrels per stream day. Calendar-day capacity is the operator’s estimate of how much a distillation unit can process in a 24-hour period under usual operating conditions, taking into account both planned and unplanned maintenance. Stream-day capacity reflects the maximum number of barrels of input that a distillation facility can process within a 24-hour period at full capacity under optimal crude oil and product slate conditions. Stream-day capacity is typically about 6% higher than calendar-day capacity.

Our Refinery Capacity Report also includes information on capacity expansions planned for the remainder of the year.

Principal contributors: Julie Harris, Kevin Hack


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