Refiners Seek Jones Act Workarounds as Crude Export Debate Heats Up

Posted by Eric Haun
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Photo: PBF Energy

As the first U.S. oil condensate exports head to Asia from the Gulf Coast, crude producers and refiners are exploring ways to get around a century-old law that makes it three times more expensive to ship by water between U.S. ports than to sail to a foreign port.

The Jones Act, originally passed to protect the U.S. maritime industry, restricts passage between U.S. ports to ships that are U.S.-built, U.S.-flagged and U.S.-crewed. If oil exports pick up pace while the Jones Act is left in place, U.S. crudes discount to Brent will likely narrow from its $8 average through 2014, while domestic refiners' shipping costs will remain high, putting them at a disadvantage to foreign competitors.

"For heaven's sake, if we're going to take the crude and export it all around the world, please let us export it to the U.S. East Coast," PBF Energy Inc. Executive Chairman Tom O'Malley said on a first quarter earnings call.

"We cannot do that if you can export crude oil to Europe at a cost of $2 a barrel and we have to use a Jones Act ship which cost us $6 or $7 a barrel."

Refiners aren't just moaning about the Jones Act's costs. They have increasingly sought ways around the pricey ships, whose day rates have nearly doubled to more than $100,000 over the past five years as shale oil production has boomed.

Of the six-dozen-strong coastal fleet of Jones Act tankers and barges, between 25 and 35 percent now carry crude oil between production hubs in Texas and refineries in the Northeast or further east along the Gulf Coast; before 2013, the bulk of the fleet ferried refined products to Florida.

Transport costs run from $2 per barrel for the short trip between the western Gulf Coast and refining centers such as Port Arthur and Beaumont in Texas, or as much as $6 or $7 a barrel from Texas to the Northeast.

Even before rates rose due to tight supply, Jones Act ships were expensive. U.S. flag vessels cost about $21,000 per day to operate, or three times as much as a comparable foreign-flag ship, largely because their U.S. citizen crews command higher wages than foreign seafarers, according to a 2011 report by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration.

On a tanker, crewing costs for U.S. mariners contribute around $11,500 per day, nearly six times the $2,000 of crewing costs on a foreign-flag ship.

Rail Capacity
The spike in day rates has led some refiners, such as Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES), to invest in rail capacity to source domestic crude. Nationally, crude oil movements by rail have jumped 71 percent in 2013, compared to the previous year.

In late July, Delta Air Lines subsidiary Monroe Energy LLC struck a deal with privately-held midstream company Bridger LLC to supply 65,000 bpd of North Dakota Bakken crude to Monroe's 185,000 bpd refinery in Trainer, Pennsylvania via rail and barge.

Delta also took its first steps into the Jones Act market, chartering the 330,000-barrel Seabulk Arctic for around $80,000 per day beginning in August, a comparatively cheap rate that results from its age, higher fuel consumption and the longer duration of the contract, according to market sources. That ship was previously chartered to Valero, which will now have no exposure to the Jones Act market.

Delta is also exploring constructing a five-mile pipeline to ship oil from a new crude-by-rail hub near Philadelphia to its Trainer refinery, a move that would allow it to scale back the use of Jones Act barges from the Eddystone rail terminal to the refinery, which adds about $1 per barrel.

PES chief executive officer Philip Rinaldi said in a February interview that his company sought to avoid water transport where possible, even for short distances like the 200-mile trip from Plains All American's 140,000-bpd rail-to-barge terminal in Yorktown, Virginia, and called other refiners' Jones Act contracts "expensive arrangements."

Other energy companies have looked to workarounds, like a March ruling granted to Buckeye Partners LP from the U.S. Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS). It allows foreign-flagged ships to carry gasoline components to and from the BORCO storage terminal in the Bahamas, as long as they are blended and return to the U.S. as a "new and different product."

Gary Heminger, CEO of Marathon Petroleum Corp, said in a July interview with Reuters that his company could hypothetically turn to foreign refineries to save on shipping costs.

"We take crude to the Gulf Coast, we put it on a foreign-flagged vessel, take it to a foreign refiner, because it's cheaper, and then bring it back as refined product. You add up all the transportation costs, you can do that cheaper," he said.

That's already happening in Canada. Valero, Irving Oil and Trafigura have been sending three to six crude cargoes per month from the Gulf Coast to Canadian refineries, averaging about 57,000 bpd through June 2014, some of which returns to the U.S. East Coast as gasoline, according to Reuters' Trade Flows data.

Crazy Uncle

Previous attempts to repeal the Jones Act have all failed. Most recently, John McCain, a Republican senator from Arizona, was prevented from offering four Jones Act-related amendments to a 2012 energy bill by Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat who’s the Senate majority leader.

This March, Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives Duncan Hunter of California and Steve Scalise of Louisiana voiced their support for the Jones Act in a Washington Times opinion column, calling it a "commercial and public policy success" that protects jobs for shipbuilders and mariners.

Refiners are seeking to educate legislators about how it affects American consumers, by raising prices for waterborne commodities such as grains and oil.

Jeff Peck, chief lobbyist for a coalition of independent refiners, said crude oil exports and the Jones Act were "inextricably linked." Extending the Jones Act requirement to crude oil exports could be one way to level the playing field if the export ban is lifted, he said.

Charles Drevna, president of the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, a trade association representing refiners, said he has "had meetings with certain legislators" on why reexamining the Jones Act must be part of energy policy reform.

"The Jones Act has been like the crazy uncle you keep in the closet. So long as no one knows about it, no harm, no foul. But once you let him out and people start to interact with him, the family dynamic changes."

(Reporting by Anna Louie Sussman in New York and Kristen Hays in Houston; editing by Jessica Resnick-Ault and John Pickering)

 

Maritime Today


The Maritime Industry's original and most viewed E-News Service

Maritime Reporter July 2016 Digital Edition
FREE Maritime Reporter Subscription
Latest Maritime News    rss feeds

People & Company News

GAC Russia Expands Eastwards

GAC Russia said it is expanding eastwards with the opening of new branches at Nakhodka and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk to meet demand for shipping services as opportunities open up in Far East.

Young Taken on PESA Advisory Board

Hoover Container Solutions’ chairman and CEO, Donald Young, has been nominated and elected to the Petroleum Equipment & Services Association (PESA) Advisory Board for a three-year term.

US Navy Tests Latest Aegis Weapon System

The U.S. Navy conducted a series of cooperative air defense test exercises with the Spanish navy that culminated in live missile firing events using the latest Aegis Weapon System baseline July 20-21.

Tanker Trends

As Market Sours, LPG Tankers Anchor off Singapore

Record U.S. LPG exports to Asia flip market into a glut. Last year, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) supplied to Asia was being snapped up by petrochemical makers.

Navig8 Acquires Chemical Tanker from STX

Navig8 Chemical Tankers Inc (the “Company”) (N-OTC: CHEMS), an international shipping company focused on the transportation of chemicals, today announced that it

Turkey’s Role for the Tanker Market

Even though the coup attempt in Turkey  failed and the transportation situation normalized quickly thereafter, Poten & Partners take a look at the importance of Turkey to the tanker market.

Finance

Funding Approved for Georgia’s New Inland Terminal

At its July board meeting, the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) approved a spending package of $19.7 million to construct the Appalachian Regional Port in Chatsworth, Murray County, Ga.

Baltic Index Falls on Weak Freight Rates

The Baltic Exchange's main sea freight index, tracking rates for ships carrying dry bulk commodities, fell on Monday due to weaker rates across all segments, except handysizes.

As Market Sours, LPG Tankers Anchor off Singapore

Record U.S. LPG exports to Asia flip market into a glut. Last year, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) supplied to Asia was being snapped up by petrochemical makers.

Energy

Los Angeles Pushes for Valero Terminal Improvements

The Port of Los Angeles has released an Initial Study/Notice of Preparation (IS/NOP) — the first step in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) process — for a Marine

Canada Seek to contain Oil Spill

Authorities are building a new containment boom to fight an oil spill in a major western Canadian river, officials said on Saturday, after the spill breached a

Ecuador Pays $112 mln Award to Chevron

Ecuador has paid $112 million to energy company Chevron Corp over a four-decade-old contract dispute, even though it remains in disagreement, the head of the central bank has said.

News

GAC Russia Expands Eastwards

GAC Russia said it is expanding eastwards with the opening of new branches at Nakhodka and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk to meet demand for shipping services as opportunities open up in Far East.

Funding Approved for Georgia’s New Inland Terminal

At its July board meeting, the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) approved a spending package of $19.7 million to construct the Appalachian Regional Port in Chatsworth, Murray County, Ga.

Quick Propeller Repair Prevents Drydocking

Recently a team of Hydrex diver/technicians performed a propeller blade cropping on a 190-meter container bulker berthed in Hamburg. Two parts of the tip of one

Government Update

Funding Approved for Georgia’s New Inland Terminal

At its July board meeting, the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) approved a spending package of $19.7 million to construct the Appalachian Regional Port in Chatsworth, Murray County, Ga.

ASEAN Breaks South China Sea Deadlock

Manila drops request to refer to court ruling in statement. Southeast Asian nations overcame days of deadlock on Monday when the Philippines dropped a request

China sets up South China Sea environment protection fund

China has set up a 15 million yuan ($2.25 million) environmental protection fund for the South China Sea having already spent double that in the past four years,

Intermodal

Funding Approved for Georgia’s New Inland Terminal

At its July board meeting, the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) approved a spending package of $19.7 million to construct the Appalachian Regional Port in Chatsworth, Murray County, Ga.

Asia-N.Europe Box Rates Fall 8.1 pct

Freight rates for transporting containers from ports in Asia to Northern Europe fell 8.1 percent to $713 per 20-foot container (TEU) in the week ended on Friday,

G6 Updates Asia-North America West Coast Service

Two services will be merged into one until further notice / Reason is change in market demand / All other services remain unchanged. Members of the G6 Alliance

Logistics

Funding Approved for Georgia’s New Inland Terminal

At its July board meeting, the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) approved a spending package of $19.7 million to construct the Appalachian Regional Port in Chatsworth, Murray County, Ga.

MSC Invests in TRAXENS Container Monitoring

MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company has reached an agreement to back French start-up TRAXENS, a developer of cargo logistics solutions and creator of a container monitoring and coordination system.

As Market Sours, LPG Tankers Anchor off Singapore

Record U.S. LPG exports to Asia flip market into a glut. Last year, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) supplied to Asia was being snapped up by petrochemical makers.

 
 
Maritime Careers / Shipboard Positions Maritime Contracts Maritime Standards Navigation Offshore Oil Pipelines Ship Electronics Ship Repair Ship Simulators Sonar
rss | archive | history | articles | privacy | contributors | top maritime news | about us | copyright | maritime magazines
maritime security news | shipbuilding news | maritime industry | shipping news | maritime reporting | workboats news | ship design | maritime business

Time taken: 0.1630 sec (6 req/sec)