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Despite challenges, Marathon Petroleum, owner of the refinery near Catlettsburg, Kentucky, reported improved earnings in the first quarter of 2021.

The pandemic affected some parts of Marathon Petroleum’s operations in the first quarter of this year, but the company reported a smaller loss this year than in the first quarter of 2020.

Before the U.S. stock markets opened Tuesday, Marathon Petroleum reported a net loss of $242 million, compared with $9.2 billion a year ago.

Marathon Petroleum owns the refinery at Catlettsburg, Kentucky, and is the parent company of the Speedway chain of convenience stores.

“During the first quarter, our industry continued to struggle with effects of the pandemic,” Michael J. Hennigan, president and chief executive officer, said in the earnings report. “With the COVID-19 vaccination roll-out, we are beginning to see increases in global mobility and demand for transportation fuels. For the first time since the pandemic began our Refining and Marketing business generated positive adjusted EBITDA.

“We have also continued the strategic effort to reposition our company for long term success, both through the pending Speedway sale and our investments in renewables projects. The Speedway transaction is close to completion, and we reiterate our commitment to use proceeds from this transaction to strengthen the balance sheet and return capital to shareholders.”

On Aug. 2, 2020, Marathon announced it had agreed to sell its Speedway chain of convenience stores to 7-Eleven Inc. for $21 billion in cash.

In the first quarter of this year, Speedway earned 25.67 cents per gallon of fuel sold vs. 35.40 cents per gallon in the first quarter of 2020. Same-store merchandise sales increased 7.0% year-over-year. Same-store gasoline sales volume decreased by 12.3% year-over-year. Marathon attributed the sales decline to impacts of the pandemic.

In the refining segment, Marathon reported earnings of $10.16 per barrel of product sold, compared with $11.86 in the first quarter of last year.

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