The national average gas price in the U.S. hit a record high this year when it reached just over $5 in mid-June, according to AAA data. As of Dec. 12, 2022, those prices have dropped to $3.26. Although that’s significantly lower than prices were at their most expensive, U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) data shows that’s still well above the $2.64 average in Jan. 2020, just before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With gas prices remaining high, Americans continue to scrutinize the oil production and prices in OPEC countries, particularly oil-rich Saudi Arabia. The White House criticized OPEC in October when it reduced oil production shortly before Saudi Arabia’s decision to raise oil prices for the U.S. while lowering prices for European markets.
One Twitter user asked VERIFY if the largest oil refinery on U.S. soil is owned by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Does Saudi Arabia own the largest oil refinery in the U.S.?
- U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)
- Saudi Aramco
- Press releases from Shell, the Saudi government, Aramco and Motiva
Yes, Saudi Arabia owns the largest oil refinery in the United States.
WHAT WE FOUND
The Saudi government has had complete ownership of the largest oil refinery in the United States, which is Motiva’s refinery in Port Arthur, Texas, since May 2017. Before then, Saudi Arabia held partial ownership of the refinery dating back to 1989.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the oil refinery in Port Arthur, Texas is the largest in the U.S., as defined by barrels of crude oil processed per day.
This refinery is directly operated by a company called Motiva. Saudi Arabia owns Motiva and its refinery in Port Arthur through Saudi Aramco, commonly shortened to just Aramco, the EIA, Motiva and Saudi Aramco confirm.
The Saudi government has fully owned Aramco since 1980, according to the company’s history page.
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But the Saudi government hasn’t always owned the Port Arthur refinery. It was built in the early 1900s, and has been owned and operated by a number of different companies since.
Aramco, and therefore Saudi Arabia, didn’t become involved with Port Arthur until 1989, when it entered a partnership with Texaco to jointly operate three refineries, including the Port Arthur refinery. Aramco and Texaco each owned half of a subsidiary company that later became Motiva, which they used to control the three refineries.
Eventually, Shell joined the Motiva partnership and Texaco dropped out, and the refinery’s ownership remained a 50-50 split between Aramco and Shell until the two sides opted to dissolve their partnership in May 2017.
Aramco and Shell opted to separate their joint assets, according to press releases from Shell, Aramco and Motiva. As a result of this split, Aramco kept the Motiva brand and the refinery in Port Arthur, while Shell held onto the other two refineries previously operated by Motiva. Shell still operates one of these refineries today, and it shuttered the other in 2020.
Port Arthur is the only American refinery that Aramco or any other Saudi Arabian company owns, according to the EIA’s list of 127 oil refineries located in the United States. Of those 127 refineries, 103 are American-owned.
Companies based in the United Kingdom, Venezuela, Canada, Mexico, France, Israel and Australia are among the other foreign companies with ownership of at least one U.S. oil refinery.