When An Airline Buys An Oil Refinery

The largest news within the airline sector of late is probably the announcement by Delta Airlines to buy a Phillips 66 refinery in Coach, PA. Delta will pay $150 million for the 180,000 barrels per day (bpd) facility, spend a further $a hundred million to upgrade the plant, and get $30 million in state subsidies for infrastructure and to create jobs.

Under the proposal, JP Morgan is reportedly a part of the package as effectively. Delta would buy the refinery and JP Morgan’s commodities group would finance the refining process, together with shopping for and transport crude oil from overseas. Delta would then purchase the jet gasoline from JP Morgan at a wholesale charge, and the bank would sell the other merchandise made by the refinery into the market.

The rationale behind this unprecedented transfer is to make use of the refinery as the ultimate gas hedge by saving Delta about $300 million a 12 months in jet fuel prices. In our view, despite the optimistic financial savings projection, there are professionals and cons of this deal for Delta.


(1) Gas represents the only largest expense part of the airline trade. Delta’s planes guzzled down 3.9 billion gallons of gasoline last yr, costing the airline $11.Eight billion, or 36% of its operating bills. So having an East Coast refinery asset could conceivably give Delta higher planning and budgeting, and most importantly, pricing energy and a price benefit, significantly within the very competitive North Atlantic market, over its opponents akin to American, British Airways.

Chart Supply: IATA

(2) With JP Morgan bankrolling the entire thing, Delta could benefit from JPM’s expertise in the power trading market, as well as financing, thus reducing the risk of taking on the refinery operation alone.

(3) No matter the outcome, Delta administration at the very least took a bold and novel approach utilizing bodily asset to hedge gas, instead of the business standard paper-primarily based hedging program pioneered by Southwest Airlines.


(1) The most important value part of jet gasoline is crude oil, which means any savings Delta seeks is driven by the crack unfold–the difference between the price of a barrel of oil, and sale worth of refined product. Coach plant is likely one of the older refineries that depends on probably the most costly grades of crude oil as feedstock. Even with JPM’s backing, what are the chances of an airline and a banker succeeding where Phillips 66 failed?

(2) Refining isn’t Delta’s core expertise. Refinery operation is quite advanced, which each Delta and JPM have little expertise. Integrating a refinery into Delta’s enterprise shall be a serious problem distracting resin factory Delta’s focus. Assuming Delta and JPM can immediately put collectively an acceptable administration group, clean running will nonetheless take no less than 2 to 3 years.

(Three) We also question if the projected $300 million a year financial savings consists of the cost of working the refinery? Theoretically, if Delta is getting cheaper gas worth from Coach, that would suggest the refinery almost definitely is just not earning money from the transaction.

(4) Furthermore, the jet gas market on the East Coast has tightened up fairly a bit as a result of closure the Trainer Plant which accounts for one third of the jet-kerosene capability in the area. So, re-opening the now idled Coach refinery might truly improve the jet gas supply benefiting even Delta’s competitors.

(5) Delta appears to have entered this deal out of desperation in the course of the oil worth spike from Iran nuclear controversy. If oil value stabilizes or weakens as a number of the forecasts seem to suggest, this could properly end up being a wasted funding.

With almost every US-primarily based airline in bankruptcy at one time or one other, the airline trade normally has not had a very good monitor report of competent administration. On that word, we must marvel if the money and resource invested on this deal could be higher utilized in areas similar to customer support and flight safety. After all, value and high quality is what issues the most in any enterprise, including airways.

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