Refining margins tripled
Margins for European oil refineries are now at USD 6-7 per barrel, which is higher than they have been since the Gulf War in 1990-91.
By comparison, the average margin – the price differential between feedstock purchases and refined products – was only USD 2 per barrel in 1999.
"The present position compares with the nadir reached for a few days last November, when we and other refiners had to pay more for feedstock than we got for our products," reports senior market analyst Morten Saxvik in Statoil.
A tight market for petrol is the primary reason for the improvement in margins, explains Mr Saxvik.
This reflects a loss of refining capacity owing to such factors as a strike in Finland and an explosion at a German plant. Normal maintenance is also under way at refineries.
Another consideration affecting petrol prices is the new specification for cleaner petrol recently introduced by the European Union. Including a lower sulphur content, this grade involves more complex production processes.
The recent decline in crude oil prices from roughly USD 30 per barrel to USD 23 has also made heavy heating oil cheaper, boosting demand and influencing margins.