* U.S. recession slashed oil refining operations
* Exxon Mobil has most U.S. oil refining capacity
* U.S. has 148 oil refineries
(Adds detail about Marathon refinery expansion)
WASHINGTON, June 29 U.S. oil refining capacity
increased to its highest level in nearly three decades during
2010, but refining operations remain well below historical
highs seen in the 1990s, the Energy Information Administration
There were 148 refineries operating in the U.S. at the
beginning of 2011 with a capacity to produce 17.7 million
barrels of petroleum products a day, up 0.9 percent, or 152,000
barrels per day, from the pervious year, the EIA said.
The increase in capacity is mostly due to the restart of
PBF Energy's 182,200-bpd Delaware City, Delaware refinery that
was purchased from Valero Energy in 2010. The refinery was
idled this January, but the capacity was considered operable.
Marathon Oil Corp (MRO.N) also added 28,000 bpd of capacity
to its Garyville, Louisiana, refinery, increasing output to
464,000 bpd. The Garyville plant was the last new refinery
built in the United States in 1977.
Marathon's refining, transportation and marketing arm will
officially split off from the parent on Friday as Marathon
Petroleum Company, the nation's second-largest independent
refiner behind Valero Energy Corp (VLO.N).
Exxon Mobil (XOM.N) has the most U.S. refining capacity at
nearly 1.855 million bpd, ConocoPhillips (COP.N) rose to second
with 1.787 million bpd in capacity while Valero Energy fell to
third with 1.682 million bpd in capacity, according to the
U.S. refineries were running at over 95 percent of capacity
in 1997 and 1998 to meet growing demand for petroleum products.
Many refiners expanded to keep up with demand and refinery
utilization still averaged above 90 percent through 2005, EIA
The U.S. recession caused lower petroleum demand, pushing
U.S. refining operations down to 83 percent of capacity in
"While the refinery utilization rate increased to about 86
percent in 2010, it remains well below the levels seen from
1993 through 2005," the EIA said.
The Federal Trade Commission announced earlier this month
it would investigate whether refineries were operating at lower
levels to reduce available fuel supply and thus keep gasoline
(Reporting by Tom Doggett in Washington and Kristen Hays in
Houston;editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid)