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U.S. Oil Industry Becomes Refiner to World as Exports Boom

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When PBF Energy Inc. scooped up a refinery from Exxon Mobil Corp. on the Mississippi River in 2015, it wasted no time sprucing up the plant with an eye toward quickly resuming lucrative fuel exports.

Within three months, PBF was ready to load its first tanker for shipment abroad. By late last year, the New Jersey-based company was exporting 22,000 barrels a day of fuel, or 16 percent of that refinery’s output. Now, it wants to boost that to almost 25 percent.

PBF isn’t alone in this push. From major producers such as Chevron Corp. to specialized refiners including Valero Energy Corp., the U.S. refining industry has shifted its game over the last five years, taking advantage of gaps left by struggling refiners in Latin America, Africa and Asia. Along the way, it’s transforming what had long been a largely domestic business into a new global venture.

“U.S. refiners are now the refiners for the world,” said Ivan Sandrea, head of Sierra Oil & Gas, which is planning to build infrastructure to import U.S. fuels into Mexico.

U.S. companies last year exported a record 3 million barrels a day of refined products, more than double the 1.3 million barrels a day shipped a decade ago, according to data from the Energy Information Administration. Gasoline led the surge, with exports hitting an all-time high of almost 1 million barrels a day in December, up ten-fold from a decade ago.

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Written by Laura Blewitt and Javier Blas

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