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We help clients navigate today’s high-paced and interconnected markets with deep industry experience, rigorous analytics, cutting-edge tools, and unwavering commitment to impact.

How we work

Our global team of downstream specialists includes more than 250 consultants with diverse profiles, ranging from technical experts and data analysts to seasoned external advisors. We invest deeply in developing tools and methodologies to decode and translate complex global markets into relevant insights for our clients.

Building lasting capabilities is also central to our mission. Our Energy Insights group provides proprietary analyses and forecasts, combining our global energy know-how, leading proprietary data, and cutting-edge modelling tools with a specialized team of topical and data analysts to deliver bespoke analysis, insights, and products to energy players.

Examples of our work

Since 2009, McKinsey has served 90 percent of the global top 20 oil and gas companies in more than 550 projects on downstream strategy and operations. Our experience across all segments and regions gives us critical insight into what it takes to achieve performance and operational excellence. Our recent work for downstream oil and gas companies include:

Improving Refining System Operations

Working with a US major to improve their refining system operations by identifying over $1 billion in cost and margin improvements to be captured in less than 24 months, and changing the operational practices and culture at their sites to make these changes permanent

Identifying Digital Solutions

Helping a European downstream client (refining, product wholesale, retail) identify digital solutions to improve refinery yield, energy efficiency, and equipment reliability, and improve sales and retail margins—including building a digital platform to manage integrated downstream value chain

Supporting a Major Transformation

Helping a Southeast Asian integrated refining and petrochemical company through a major transformation spread over a period of 2 years, resulting in a performance improvement of more than $240 million—which was 80 percent of the targeted milestone and within 75 percent of the stipulated implementation time

Increasing Refining Capacity

Working with a national oil company to increase its refining capacity—through multilot contracting strategy and global sourcing—to improve national fuel security and competitiveness, leading to $100 million in savings from procurement initiatives over a more than $300 million spending base and $60 million capex savings on a refinery facilities project

Sustainable Sales Improvement

Leading a diagnostics and pilot project for increasing nonfuel sales and customer retention for a client in the Arab Gulf, identifying opportunities to sustainably improve sales 7 percent above current levels without major capital investments

Achieving Operational Improvements

Benchmarking the efficiency of a European oil company’s supply chain to achieve significant operational improvements in downstream logistics and marketing business, resulting in more than $10 million of sustainable savings

Defining a Comprehensive Business Building Strategy

Working with a major refinery to define a comprehensive strategy for building a major lubricant business, covering production configuration, sales, and marketing strategies for motor and industrial lubricants

Featured capabilities

We invest heavily in developing proprietary tools, databases, and methods, including:

  • Refinery Reference Desk, a comprehensive resource that explains downstream industry terminology and concepts.
  • Global Energy Perspective, a granular, forward-looking demand model covering 21 regions, 34 fuel types, and 25 sectors that supports customized scenario creation and drivers-based analyses of global and regional fuels demand in the medium and long-term time frames.
  • Global Downstream Model, a country-level global flows model providing granular outlooks on regional downstream markets, including global and regional refining conditions; interregional crude, product, and intermediates flows; and regional product balances.
  • OilDesk, an equilibrium price calculator that generates crude and refined product-price forecasts for major product markets under multiple demand scenarios.

Related Insights


What shipowners, refiners, and traders should know about IMO 2020

– New global limits on sulfur content for marine fuels will have a significant impact on fuel markets. Our forecast for 2020 shows... the biggest challenge will be overcoming uncertainty.

Global refining: Profiting in a downstream downturn

– Amid long-term margin declines in the global refining market, players must move quickly to adjust their portfolio strategies.

Global downstream outlook to 2035

– Perspective on global refining markets and projections to 2035.
Blog Post

The refining top 40: Marathon moves up

– With the completion of the merger of Marathon and Andeavor, we now have a new number one independent refiner in the US.

Lubes growth opportunities remain despite switch to electric vehicles

– Lubricating oils have traditionally been one of the most attractive areas in the oil and gas value chain, but disruption is on... the horizon with the rise of electrification in the transport sector.

IMO 2020 and the outlook for marine fuels

– In 2020, the global limit on sulfur content for all marine fuels will be lowered dramatically, sending shockwaves through global... refined-product markets while widening margins and differentials. Most refiners are still trying to come to grips with the potential threats and opportunities that will emerge as a result of this regulation.
Blog Post

Refiners still strong in second quarter, outlook bright for rest of year

– North American independent refiners posted strong financial results in the second quarter, building on gains notched in the earlier... three-month period.

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