U.S. refineries grow capacity, but not production

The total crude oil processing capacity of the nation’s refineries  reached its highest level in 28 years in 2010, but much of that capacity went unused because of low demand for gasoline and other refined products, the federal Energy Information Administration reported this week.

The nation’s 148 refineries had the capacity to process 17.7 million barrels of oil a day on Jan. 1, the EIA calculated in its annual Refinery Capacity Report. Eleven refineries were idle.

But the facilities only used about 86 percent of their capacity last year, well below the record highs of more than 95 percent in the mid-to-late 1990s.

Texas is home to 26 refineries, with a total capacity of 4.7 million barrels of crude daily.

Exxon Mobil Corp. maintained its position as the nation’s largest refiner by capacity, with ability to process 1.9 million barrels per day. The corporation’s Baytown refinery is the nation’s largest, with an operating capacity of 560,640 barrels a day.