UPDATE 1-Taiwan's Formosa plans to increase refinery output in May

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SINGAPORE, April 20 (Reuters) - Taiwan’s Formosa Petrochemical Corp plans to ramp up operating rates at its refinery in May to 74% once it restarts a gasoline-making unit after maintenance and as refining margins have improved, the company’s spokesman said.

Formosa plans to process 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude in May, or 74% of its total capacity, up from 340,000 bpd in March and April, spokesman KY Lin told Reuters.

The higher utilization rate comes as Asian gasoline refining margins GL92-SIN-CRK have returned to pre-COVID-19 levels. Formosa is among the largest oil products exporters in Asia and a ramp-up in its output is expected to lead to more exports.

Formosa’s refinery has been operating at about 60% between February and April due to maintenance, while its No.2 residue desulphuriser unit is undergoing repairs following a fire in July.

“Our RCC (residue catalytic cracker) will resume operations in May so we’ll process some sweet crude,” Lin said, adding that prices for gasoline and propylene, a petrochemical feedstock, produced from the RCC are favourable.

Formosa operates three crude distillation units with a capacity of 180,000 bpd each at its complex in Mailiao. (Reporting by Florence Tan; Editing by Himani Sarkar)