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US refinery outages push throughput down, gasoline margins up: IEA

London β€” Planned and unplanned US refinery outages pushed down global refinery throughput in March, the International Energy Agency said in its latest monthly report Thursday.

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Throughput "plummeted" 2.5 million b/d month on month on "heavier than expected maintenance as well as industrial accidents affecting the heart of the refining industry in PADD 3," the IEA said.

But the "largest annual decline" in the US since Hurricane Harvey in September 2017 helped "propel gasoline cracks from negative levels to solid single-digits," it said.

Gasoline strength boosted global margins in all regions in March, despite higher crude prices. The gains offset weakening middle distillate cracks, the report said.

Global refinery throughput is expected to start climbing in August, after maintenance peaks in Europe and China in May, and following lower runs in OECD Asia in Q2. The startup of several major projects will then boost year-on-year growth to 1.2 million b/d in Q4.

The increase in throughput may face "strong headwinds" from a tighter crude market, which led the agency to revise its overall 2019 global refinery intake growth estimate to 0.7 million b/d, down by 0.4 million b/d.

--Elza Turner, elza.turner@spglobal.com

--Edited by James Burgess, james.burgess@spglobal.com