Delta Air Lines is looking into buying cheaper North Dakota crude oil to feed its new refinery near Philadelphia, instead of the more expensive overseas crude that has fed the refinery in the past.
Delta bought the idled refinery at Trainer, Pa., in June. Like most East Coast refineries, it has refined mostly North Sea oil that arrived by ship and is priced in London.
Brent crude has been consistently more expensive than the West Texas Intermediate crude that governs pricing for oil from North Dakota. On Thursday, WTI futures were almost $18 per barrel cheaper than those for Brent crude.
North Dakota oil would come by train to Delta's refinery, Delta President Ed Bastian said at an analyst conference on Thursday. Delta is already in discussions with railroads about getting oil to the Trainer refinery. By some estimates, it can cost as much as $15 per barrel to haul oil from North Dakota to the East Coast.
Delta is working "24-7" to get the refinery running by the end of this month, Bastian said.
The airline spent $11.8 billion on jet fuel last year. It's hoping to slice that bill by $300 million — and Bastian said the savings would be higher with North Dakota crude.
One risk is that the discount for North Dakota oil could go away. Bastian said the airline is studying that risk as it looks into shifting its source for oil.
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