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Marathon Petroleum 1st quarter profits up 22%

CEO: Detroit overhaul, new assets behind boost

Marathon-Petroleum-s-Detroit-refinery

Marathon Petroleum spent $2.2 billion to overhaul its Detroit refinery, seen here, last year, and bought a huge facility in Texas City, Texas, from BP Plc. That was part of a $2.4 billion deal that closed in February.

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FINDLAY — Marathon Petroleum Corp. on Tuesday reported a profit of $725 million in the first quarter, up 22 percent from the $596 million it made in the same period last year.

The Findlay-based oil refiner’s earnings per share were $2.17, up from $1.70 during the first quarter of 2012.

Marathon President and CEO Gary Heminger pointed to successes at the company’s revamped and newly acquired assets as a catalyst for the gains.

The company spent $2.2 billion to overhaul its Detroit refinery last year, and bought a huge facility in Texas City, Texas, from BP Plc. That was part of a $2.4 billion deal that closed in February.

“We’re working hard to integrate this large, very complex facility,” Mr. Heminger said.

Marathon Petroleum executives said Tuesday that they expect the narrowed spread between U.S. crude benchmark West Texas Intermediate and London’s Brent crude to widen again, though not necessarily to the $20-plus level seen earlier this year.

That spread, which surpassed $20 in February but has dropped below $10, has been a boon for refiners like Marathon with multiple plants in the Midwest that are close to cheaper U.S. inland and Canadian heavy crudes output.

Mr. Heminger told Reuters in an interview that Europe’s weak economy and a heavy refinery turnaround season depressed demand, pushing down Brent prices.

As those turnarounds wrap up, demand for Brent is expected to rise, pushing prices up relative to West Texas Intermediate, he said.

Marathon Petroleum also announced it is selling 5 percent of a pipeline interest to MPLX LP for $100 million. MPLX was spun off from Marathon Petroleum last year to control the company’s extensive pipeline transmission network.

Marathon Petroleum was spun off in June, 2011, from Marathon Oil Corp.

Marathon Petroleum stock fell $4.05 a share to close at $78.36 Tuesday. MPLX stock fell 83 cents to $38.27 per share.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Contact Kris Turner at: kturner@theblade.com or 419-724-6103.

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