By Debroop Roy
(Reuters) - U.S. refiner Phillips 66 beat estimates for quarterly profit on Friday, benefiting from shipping higher volumes of crude through its pipelines.
Pipeline operators have benefited from a surge in output from U.S. shale basins, which led oil producers to scramble for takeaway capacities.
Earnings from midstream segment for Phillips 66, which has both wholly owned and joint venture operations, rose nearly 78% to $423 million in the second quarter ended June 30.
The company's refining margin shrank 7.4% to $11.37 per barrel due to a shortage of low-cost heavy crude, but beat Credit Suisse estimates for pretax refining income by 8.5%.
Phillips 66 has an edge over its peers as it is running light sweet crude at two of its three refineries in the Gulf Coast, which is short heavy sour barrels, Credit Suisse analyst Manav Gupta said.
Refiners in the United States have been struggling to find low-cost heavy crude due to factors including Alberta's output cuts, sanctions on Venezuela and Iran as well as the OPEC's pull back on production.
Separately, the company said it eliminated incentive distribution rights for its limited partnership Phillips 66 Partners LP for 101 million units. Following the deal, the refiner will own 75% of the outstanding shares.
"Midstream delivered record results and at PSXP we are simplifying the capital structure with the elimination of IDRs," Chief Executive Officer Greg Garland said in a statement.
The company's profit beat follows smaller rival Valero Energy Corp, which reported a better-than-expected profit on Thursday.
It went a little off track in the first quarter but "looks like the 'beat machine' is back on track," analyst Gupta said.
Adjusted earnings for Phillips 66 rose to $1.38 billion, or $3.02 per share, in the quarter ended June 30. Analysts on average had expected it to earn $2.74 per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
The company's refineries had an average utilization rate of 97% in the quarter compared with a 100% in the year-ago period.
Shares of the U.S. refiner were up 1.7% at $103.25 in light premarket trading. Its shares have gained nearly 18% so far this year, compared with an about 7% rise on the S&P oil and gas refining and marketing index year-to-date.
(Reporting by Debroop Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)