Caltex Australia says its refiner margin has shown short-term growth but remains roughly half as strong compared to 2019 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The company on Thursday said in a statement its March refiner margin was $US4.62 per barrel – above the February figure of $US4.14 per barrel, but significantly lower than March 2019’s price of $US8.67 a barrel.

However Caltex said ongoing reliable operations saw refiner margin sales from production in March of 515ML, which was slightly above February’s 505ML and higher still than the same time last year.

Caltex Australia’s year to date refiner margin figure is $US4.87 per barrel but was $US7.53 per barrel by March 2019.

Caltex’s refiner margin represents the difference between the cost of importing a standard basket of its products to eastern Australia and the cost of importing the crude oil required to make that product basket.

The company on Thursday re-stated that it would bring forward and extend the duration of the planned shutdown of its Brisbane-based oil refinery Lytton’s maintenance – now to commence in May – in response to the coronavirus.

Caltex Australia stocks had risen by 0.13 per cent to $23.56 by 1030 AEST.

The company has lost nearly a third of its value in 2020 and the wider energy sector has copped a battering amid the COVID-19 pandemic and an oil price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Crude oil prices fell to an 18-year low overnight and Brent lost more than 6.0 per cent after the United States reported its biggest weekly inventory build on record, while global demand is expected to fall to quarter-century lows.

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