In 2006 we saw poor refinery performance as strong concurrent hurricane seasons delayed maintenance in the spring of 2005 and 2006. At the start of the year refinery throughput was 3% lower than the preceding year and traders feared a shortage in capacity which led to product prices decoupling from the complex and rising sharply.
In turn, refiners saw their return at the pump rise from $0.223 a gallon in February to $0.784 by July as this fear was priced into the season. That’s a 351% increase in five months while crude oil prices rose by just 16% over the same period.
Of course, the cure for high prices is high prices, and as the refineries came back on-line the market was flooded with products. By the end of the driving season in September, throughput was running 3.9% above the five-year average, but the refiners’ take was back down to $0.161 at the pump.