Sunday, March 20, 2016

USA Today Reports On Saudi Aramco - Shell Split; Saudi Aramco Now Owns Largest Refinery In US -- March 20, 2016

USA Today reports that Saudi Arabia now owns the largest refinery in the US. I track this story here.

The report sheds more light on the background to this "breakup":
Reuters reported that the relationship started to fray after Motiva announced a $10 billion expansion of the Port Arthur refinery, doubling its capacity to 603,000 barrels per day, making it America’s largest refinery. It produced gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. A leak shortly after the expansion was completed in 2012 led to ballooning costs, exacerbating tension between Shell and Aramco. A 2015 workers strike also sparked anger between the two companies.
The two companies signed a nonbinding letter of intent, a plan that would divide up Motiva’s refineries between them. The refineries have a combined capacity of 1.1 million barrels per day and are all located close to each other. The breakup will allow Saudi Aramco to take over the Port Arthur refinery and 26 distribution terminals, and Aramco will also hold onto the Motiva brand name. Shell will take over the other two refineries, Convent and Norco, both located in Louisiana. Shell said that it would operate the two refineries as one plant with a combined throughput of 500,000 barrels per day.
This is obviously a different spin or emphasis than the one I suggested earlier: Saudi Aramco is in early stages of monetizing its assets. So we will see how this plays out.

And there it is, at the end of the USA Today article:
The split will hand the largest U.S. refinery to the state-owned Saudi oil company. The Wall Street Journal speculates that it could also pave the way for some sort of listing of Aramco’s assets in a public offering, something that Saudi officials have alluded to for several months. Few expect Aramco to list its upstream production assets in Saudi Arabia; downstream assets are much more likely to be offered up.
This article fails to note what else Saudi Aramco got in the deal, which in some ways may be just as important, if not more important. Saudi Aramco also got:
  • the Motiva name
  • retain 26 distribution terminals
  • maintain an exclusive, long-term license to use the Shell brand for gasoline and diesel sales in Texas, the majority of the Mississippi Valley, the US southeast, and the US mid-Atlantic markets
In the short-term, Americans won't notice any difference, but it would not surprise me to see Motiva-branded service stations in the US.

Wiki lists the largest refineries in the US; the list does not include the Whiting BP refinery in Indiana. Wiki says that that refinery has a capacity of more than 400,000 bopd; Whiting says it has a capacity of 430,000 bopd, making it the sixth largest refinery in the US.

The Apple Page

We are one step closer to buying an AppleWatch for May. She has an iPhone; I do not. I have said I will never get an iPhone, but the AppleWatch is so enticing, I could imagine getting an iPhone just to get an AppleWatch.

For the first time in a long time we visited the Apple store here in Southlake, TX.

We went in Saturday afternoon; there were seven ahead of us waiting to see Apple Watches, estimated to be a 15-minute wait, so we changed our mind and went back later.

Last evening, about 7:30, we were #4 in line for AppleWatches so decided to stay. The wait was about fifteen minutes but there is always plenty to do while waiting; sort of like waiting in an automobile showroom.

During the visit I told Austin I had not seen any change in the Apple retail stores even after Angela Ahrendts from Burberry took over responsibility for the stores in 2014. I suggested maybe her presence was being felt at the larger, more "fashionable" Apple stores in Paris, Japan, London, etc. He said her presence had more to do with how Apple employees interacted with customers, and a change in Apple employee apparel.

He was absolutely correct with regard to the second: Apple employees now wear either a very sharp-looking grey tunic or a less-fancy blue t-shirt, both much classier than the look they had under Steve Jobs. Tim Cook must have noted that when he took over and hired Ahrendts.

As for the first comment about a change in the way Apple employees interacted with customers I cannot comment on. I've always found them more than just pretty good.

We did mention to Austin that we would probably wait until after the Apple presentation on Monday which Austin said was "smart to do." But he noted, almost in the same breath, that Apple has a 14-day return policy and a 30-day return policy after any announcement of a new update. It was tempting.

But we were tired; it had been a long day. We were tired, wanted to get home, and had we bought last night it would have been a bit longer with the time it would have taken to "pair" the Apple Watch  with May's iPhone. So we made an appointment to return Tuesday, probably after the Apple presentation on Monday. Austin says he will be at the Apple store all afternoon.

The Apple Page -- Continued

While trying on the Apple Watches last night, I picked one up when the band was off -- just the watch. Except that it was a bit thicker and bit heavier, it "felt" identical to the "old" iPod nano. Austin agreed. In fact, when I blocked on the word I was looking for, he said "nano." One almost gets the feeling the iPhone engineers and the iPod nano designers worked together on the Apple Watch.

I was impressed how "solid" the watch felt. It  had a "heaviness" to it that gave it "gravitas." I was surprised how elegantly the crown worked, both for clicking and scrolling.

May's biggest decision was on the watch band. We were not in the market for 24K Gold or Rose Gold watches, but it was amazing how fast we went from looking at the entry price "sport band" (the band comes "free" with the $349 entry-level watch) to the Milanese loop which would add $149 to the $349 watch.

The Apple presentation, "We Will Loop You In," suggests some changes with regard to the Apple Watch and/or the band, though Austin (and everything at MacRumors) suggests the presentation will be focused on the iPhone and some of the laptops.

I'm hoping this segment in our Apple journey ends Tuesday afternoon.

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