Recent rapid growth in U.S. production of light tight oil has raised interest in understanding how U.S. refineries, many of which are configured to process heavier crude oil, might accommodate increased volumes of domestic light crude. The U.S. refinery fleet, which is distributed across Petroleum Administration for Defense Districts (PADDs), varies both within and across regions in capacity, quality of crude oil inputs, utilization rates, and sources of crude supply.
More than 50% of the country’s refinery capacity and most of the country’s heavy crude processing capacity is located in the Gulf Coast (PADD 3). The region’s 51 operating refineries with atmospheric crude distillation units (ACDU) have capacity totaling 9.7 million barrels per stream day (bbl/sd), 81% of which is located at facilities with coking capacity. Coking units can upgrade heavy crude oil into higher-valued lighter products, such as distillate and gasoline. Recent expansions have increased ACDU and coking capacity by 625,000 bbl/sd and 160,000 bbl/sd, respectively, since 2010. Despite the expanded capacity, utilization has remained steady, and the region has recently set records for high levels of gross inputs.