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Falling margins, rising maintenance

A busy season of refinery turnarounds is about to weaken crude demand, again

Refining margins are weakening, inventories are brimming and, to make things worse, this year's maintenance season looks like it will be especially busy. All things being equal, it means the crude oil glut has some way to go in the first half of the year. Global refinery runs are already on their way down. They fell by 1.3m barrels a day in January, down to 79.8m b/d, according to the International Energy Agency, buckling under the pressure of lower margins and the onset of seasonal maintenance in the US. In February, runs will likely remain flat, but fall again, by 0.6m b/d, in March, the agency says. Global crude stocks are expected to rise, testing inventory tank tops. In the US, crude s

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