Last updateThu, 06 May 2021 8pm

ASCE Gives U.S. Infrastructure a C- Grade, Says Bold Action Needed

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released the 2021 Report Card for America's Infrastructure, its latest quadrennial assessment of the nation's infrastructure. The report gives the U.S. an overall 'C-' grade and finds the country is spending just over half of what is required. Overall, the long-term infrastructure investment gap continues to grow. That gap has risen from $2.1 trillion over 10 years in the last report to $2.59 trillion in the latest study, meaning a funding gap of $259 billion per year. 

Refinery Runs at Lowest Level Since 2008 Due to Texas Freeze

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the cold snap that affected much of the central part of the country in mid-February disrupted energy systems, particularly in and around Texas. In the U.S. Gulf Coast, where the petroleum infrastructure has rarely operated in sub-zero temperatures, several refineries fully or partially shut down, leading to the largest reduction in Gulf Coast refinery operations in several years. 

U.S. Petroleum Exceeds All Expectations in January

According to the American Petroleum Institute's latest monthly statistical report, U.S. oil markets kicked off 2021 with a remarkable January. Total U.S. petroleum demand returned to within 1.2% of its level from January 2020 despite the pandemic. Refining and petrochemical demand for other oils – naphtha, gasoil, propane/propylene – reached a record high level (6.5 million barrels per day, mb/d), 33.1% share of total U.S. petroleum demand. 

Extreme Cold Expected to Impact U.S. Shale Drillers

“While natural gas producers benefited from cold weather forcing closure of wells, shale oil drillers stood on the losing side of the trade as frozen pipes and power supply interruptions were expected to slow an output recovery, operators said.”

Analysts tell Reuters that “[s]hale oil producers could take at least two weeks to restart the more than 2 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude output lost during the cold snap and some production may never return because of the cost of restarting marginal wells.” 

U.S. Specialty Chemical Markets Expand in December

U.S. specialty chemicals market volumes expanded by 1.2% in December following an upwardly revised 0.6% gain in November, according to the American Chemistry Council. Of the 28 specialty chemical segments monitored, 23 expanded in December, up from 13 in November, while one segment was stable and four declined. On a sequential basis, diffusion was 84% in December, up from 48% in November. Of the 23 segments that expanded in December, 19 featured gains of 1.0% or more.

During December, overall specialty chemicals volumes were off 4.9% on a year-over-year basis, an improvement from November. Volumes stood at 106.9% of their average 2012 levels in December. This is equivalent to 7.28 billion pounds (3.30 million metric tons). On a year-earlier basis, six chemical segments showed gains: Cosmetic additives, dyes, electronic chemicals, flavors and fragrances, plastic compounding, and water management chemicals. On a year-earlier basis, diffusion was 18% in December. For 2020 as a whole, volumes were off 7.1%. 

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