U.S. refineries are in the midst of a petroleum supply glut that's driving down profit margins for refining crude --the crack spread-and depressing prices by over 25% since last week.
U.S. supplies of oil and all petroleum-based fuels were at the highest levels in at least 20 years, jumping to 1.81 billion barrels for the week that ended May 14, knocking profit margins at refineries off a 15 month high.
The crack spread--the profit margin that an oil refinery can expect to make by "cracking" three barrels of oil into two barrels of gasoline and one barrel of heating oil-traded as low as $11.33 a barrel Friday on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX). It touched $16.909 on May 13, the highest price since Feb. 12, 2009. The margin has dropped 62% from a record $30.479 reached on May 17, 2007.