Processing capacity at U.S. refineries grew 150,000 bpd in 2010, reaching the highest level since 1982 despite utilization remaining well below historical highs, explains the Energy Information Administration in its weekly report on the energy industry.
In the mid-to-late 1990s, demand for petroleum products grew to the point where utilization averaged over 95% in 1997 and 1998, leading to capacity expansions at existing refineries. U.S. refining capacity remained above 90% through 2005. But the economic downturn in 2008 and the first half of 2009 led to lower petroleum demand, causing the refinery utilization rate to fall to about 83% in 2009. In 2010, it increased to 86%, well below the 1993-2005 levels.