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Bad News for Crude Oil Prices: Persian Gulf Refineries

The low oil prices engineered by OPEC in the last year are feeding several new Saudi refineries. The oil producing nations of the Persian Gulf have decided to produce petro products, not just crude oil, and this means serious profits for Saudi Aramco and its partners. It also indicates continued low crude oil prices, a negative sign for the U.S. shale industry – like EOG Resources (NYSE:EOG), Halcon Resources (NYSE:HK), and Oasis Petroleum (NYSE:OAS) – and other U.S. crude producers like ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM), Chevron (NYSE:CVX), Hess (NYSE:HES) and Continental Resources (NYSE:CLR).

Traditionally, crude oil was not refined in the Middle East, but shipped off in tankers or transported by pipeline to refineries in North America and Western Europe. Only a fraction of local crude oil was refined at the Aramco refinery in Ras Tanura and the British Petroleum refinery at Abadan in Iran, but refinery expansion failed to keep pace with growing crude oil exports. The American and European oil companies that originally ran Persian Gulf oil operations did not invest heavily in refining in the Gulf region. Construction costs were extreme, particularly in undeveloped desert regions like Saudi Arabia, skilled workers hard to come...