UPDATE: Marathon Petroleum 2Q profits up 44 percent from last year

Marathon Petroleum Corp.’s barges on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers enabled it to earn higher profits on its gasoline and diesel fuel, propelling earnings by 44 percent to $855 million last quarter, the company reported today.

Marathon Petroleum buys crude and refines it into gasoline, diesel and other petroleum products, which it then sells. Its profit margins on the oil it refined in the April-June quarter beat its peers, said Roger Reed, of Wells Fargo Securities.

Profit from refining and marketing operations rose by 40 percent from a year earlier. Phillips 66’s refining profit fell 14 percent and Valero Energy Corp.’s refining profit rose 18 percent last quarter.

Marathon Petroleum’s fleet of 16 towboats and 200 owned or leased barges was the key.

“Our significant marine or barge system … allows us to be very flexible in moving product to markets where there is a good demand,” said Donald Templin, chief financial officer.

“It just illustrates the efficiency of our system … to be able to move to the markets quicker than anyone else,” said Gary Heminger, chief executive officer.

Revenue grew by 4.5 percent to $26.84 billion from a year earlier in the April-June quarter.

Courier business reporter Lou Wilin will  have more on Friday.

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