The Greatest Lost Production Opportunity in History

As a sideline, I tend to have a lot of sidelines, I do a lot of data modeling using various graphing tools. This is because I am basically a very boring person. However - I have stumbled upon something very intriguing coming out of the Energy Information Administration. This department publishes the official government energy information for the USA. Have a look at this motion chart below. From the information above you can see that over time the USA has dramatically reduced its number of refineries, but at the same time it has been able to dramatically increase its overall capacity. Aside from a blip in the statistics in the early 1980's the level of capacity utilization has also hovered around 88% (ish). This blip seems to have something to do with the point in history when oil prices actually trended downwards for a period. (Small though it was) The problem, is that as the capacity has grown, the unused capacity (with a static Utilization level) has also grown substantially. In 1950 for example, capacity utilization was 92.5% of 6,223 thousand barrels per day. Leaving an unused capacity of only 467 thousand barrels per day. The turning point, for those of you who notice these things, seems to have come in 1992, when refineries continued to increase their capacity while at the same time reducing the number of refineries. Compare this to today, when in 2007 the USA had a utilization rate of 88.5% of a capacity of 17,443 barrels a day, almost three times the capacity of the refinery sector 60 years earlier. But - this means that there was an unused capacity of around 2,006,000 barrels a day, about a third of the entire capacity of the USA per day in 1950 is now going unexploited. That is a shocking story. The statistics don't allow me to get to the heart of these figures. And I am sure that the standard excuses regarding the age of the assets and new technologies would surface pretty quickly. However, if that's the case then it is an argument that says "we have under invested in our asset base for years while raking in record profits." Without knowing all fo the facts I am still extremely confident to state that there is no doubt properly applied reliability programs could assist the industry significantly. Particularly when the nation is feeling the crush of financial incompetence from industry giants, the instability of the oil price, and the instability of the US Dollar. Raising refinery reliability would seem to be an issue of national importance, if not one of national security. If you have some industry or reliability data that you would like to see modeled like this or similar please feel free to send it through to me and I would be happy to help you with it. Alternatively if there are any other trends that you think would be interesting please let me know. (Email)