By Irina Slav
Shell is looking for buyers of its Anacortes refinery in Washington, unnamed sources told Reuters, adding that if a sale takes place it would leave Shell’s refining operations in North America concentrated in the Gulf Coast.
The sale would be part of a divestment program announced by the Anglo-Dutch supermajor. It envisages the offloading of $5 billion worth of assets last year and this year, each.
Shell already sold one other U.S. refinery last year, in Martinez, California. The deal, with independent refiner PBF Energy Inc, will see the supermajor get up to $1 billion.
Another refinery, this one in Canada, is also up for sale. That’s the 75,000-bpd Sarnia refinery of Shell in Ontario.
If Shell finds a buyer for the 144,000-bpd Anacortes facility, this will leave it with three refineries in the United States—two in Louisiana with a combined capacity of half a million barrels daily, and one in Texas with a capacity of 340,000 bpd.
Reuters later reported that the Anacortes refinery is the seventh one that has been put up for sale in the United States. The seven account for 5 percent of refining capacity in the country.
Buyers, however, are difficult to find for a number of reasons. These include unfavorable locations, a concern among energy companies about falling refining margins, and the competition prospects given the pending restart of refineries in the Caribbean.
The margins problem, according to analysts, stems from the fact that all refineries are now trying to produce fuels compliant with the new IMO sulfur emissions regulations effective January 1 and this is eating into profits. The U.S. renewable fuel standard is not helping, either.
“When some of your really big companies have stopped buying refineries, that really slows things down,” a Tudor Pickering Holt & Co. told Reuters.
“Refiners don’t want to overpay for an asset with environmental liabilities that might require unknown capital expenditure to meet future requirements,” according to Matt Flanagan, an executive from energy advisory firm Opportune.