Ethanol 'blend wall' cost refiners at least $1.35 billion
Others refiners, such as Tesoro Corp said it dipped into reserves of the credits built up the previous year to meet compliance obligations. The so-called "banked RINs" could be in short supply if mandates go higher in 2014.
Meanwhile, a handful of smaller operators, including CVR and Delek US Holdings, said they have applied for exemptions from the blending rules for some plants. The EPA has granted the so-called hardship exemption to at least one refinery, Alon USA Energy's Krotz Springs, Louisiana, plant.
There are currently 14 active exemption requests under consideration by the EPA, according to the agency's website.
The total tally in RIN costs is likely more than $1.5 billion including refiners such as Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES), owned by the Carlyle Group, which operates the biggest plant on the East Coast.
The firm is not required to disclose the company's financial details, but last October Chief Executive Officer Philip Rinaldi said RIN costs could be as much as $250 million for 2013. A spokeswoman declined to provide an updated figure, saying only that last year's costs were "very substantial."
"Did merchant refiners take a hit? Yes, but that affected their shareholders, not the American public," said Todd Becker, chief executive officer of Green Plains Renewable Energy, a Nebraska-based ethanol producer.
He said that looking at both sides of the market, the run-up in RIN costs had not driven up gasoline prices, as some refiners have said.
"It was a zero-sum game. The blenders had a windfall."
The Long of It
Conspicuous by their silence are large oil majors, such as BP Plc and Royal Dutch Shell Plc, which operate U.S. refineries as well as biofuel blending operations. Last July, BP's top refining executive said the company did "quite well" trading its surplus RINs for a profit.
Some pipeline operators, such as Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, also said in its filings that the company made money selling RINs, though they did not provide exact figures.
The biggest known beneficiary, according to a search of public SEC filings, was Murphy USA Inc, a gasoline station chain, which said it sold 171 million RINs in 2013 for a total of $91.4 million - a windfall compared with the company's $8.9 million of sales the prior year.
Vitol S.A., the world's largest oil trader and a leading importer of Brazilian ethanol, has been one of the biggest traders in the market and is believed to have done well in the run-up in RIN prices. It is unclear how it has fared lately.
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