Refiners Find New Investors in Buffett and Icahn

11 August 2012 –

Gasoline refiners, shunned by investors because of falling demand and rising regulation, now count Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and billionaire Carl Icahn among shareholders as lower oil prices promise wider returns for fuel makers.

Buffett’s Bet

Buffett, Berkshire’s chairman and chief executive officer, said last month in an interview on Bloomberg Television that one of his deputies had invested in Phillips 66, which became the largest independent refiner in the U.S. after the Houston-based company was spun off from ConocoPhillips.

Icahn didn’t respond to a request for comment. Buffett didn’t respond to a request for comment sent to his assistant, Carrie Sova.

New drilling and production techniques used to crack shale rock brought a flood of new gas, deflating prices to a 10-year intraday low of $1.902 per million British thermal unit in April. The same methods now are being used to harvest oil, spurring three straight years of surging output in the U.S., the first time that’s happened since 1985, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The renaissance has caused U.S. crude prices to fall below other varieties of oil traded globally, giving refiners with operations near new U.S. oil production the advantage of paying less for each barrel they purchase. Refiners with access to growing supplies from North Dakota’s Bakken shale formation and other northwest oilfields, were the first to benefit.