Andeavor says it saves $100 mln in U.S. biofuel costs in 2016-17

NEW YORK, May 8 (Reuters) - Andeavor, one of the largest U.S. refining companies has reported saving $100 million over the past two years due to lower compliance costs related to the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard, which requires refiners to mix biofuels like ethanol into the nation’s fuel or purchase credits from rivals that do.

The company’s announcement late on Monday came after Reuters reported last month that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had granted the company a financial hardship waiver that freed its smallest refining facilities from the regulation.

The biofuels industry has accused the Trump administration’s EPA of undermining demand for biofuels by improperly granting waivers to highly-profitable companies like Andeavor. EPA has rejected that charge.

Andeavor said in its earnings statement Monday that it saved “approximately $100 million primarily related to a reduction in the RINs obligation for the 2016 and 2017 compliance periods for some of the company’s Inland refineries.”

Andeavor recorded net profits of $1.4 billion in 2017.

Reuters reported that Andeavor’s EPA hardship exemptions had freed Andeavor’s refineries in North Dakota, Utah and New Mexico from having to blend biofuels or buy RINs for the 2016 compliance period. The report did not mention any waivers for 2017.

The company did not explicitly credit small refinery exemptions for the savings. A company official did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The EPA said it has granted more than two dozen hardship exemptions in recent months to small refineries that say compliance would have been too financially difficult.

This was a major expansion of the program. This was a major expansion for waivers. Since the EPA began issuing discretionary exemptions in 2013, the EPA has tended to give out less than 10 such waivers a year, according to former officials.

The EPA has said its criteria for granting the waivers has not changed, and that applications are considered on a case by case basis.

The expansion of the small refinery waiver program is due in part to a federal court decision last year that said the EPA had been too stingy with the exemptions in the past. But biofuel groups say the EPA has gone beyond the court mandate, and is using the cover of the court to gut the RFS. (Reporting By Jarrett Renshaw; Editing by David Gregorio)