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Marathon Petroleum Corporation


Don Wehrly, Todd Sandifer, Ron Hostetler , VP and CIO, Marine Transportation Manager, Advanced Analytics Manager


Marathon Petroleum Corporation



Business Challenge

Marathon Petroleum Corporation’s (MPC) inland river fleet – now part of a subsidiary’s partnership – is one of the largest private domestic fleets of inland petroleum product barges, consisting of 18 tow boats, 204 tank barges, and contracted and chartered equipment.

Fuel is the fleet’s highest variable expense. The fleet consumes approximately six million gallons of diesel fuel per year. The Advanced Analytics team was tasked to identify opportunities to operate the fleet more efficiently in order to reduce fuel consumption.

Analytics Solution

MPC’s inland vessels are outfitted with a real-time data management system that measures variables including vessel location, speed, engine RPM, fuel consumption rate, throttle position, and more.

Sensor data showed: • The average fuel consumption rate was 15 gallons per mile. • The average trip speed was 7-8 mph with high variability between trips. • The fuel consumption rate doubled when operating at maximum RPM as compared to 80 percent of maximum RPM. • The vessels operated at maximum RPM 15 percent of the time, accounting for 40 percent of total fuel usage. • The vessels typically arrived ahead of schedule.

The team also analyzed data from external sources, including location, speed, river conditions, lock and dam events. This data helped determine the following: • Time periods to exclude due to extreme river conditions and extended lock delays • Season-average river velocities • Operating ranges of other boats

At the conclusion of the study, the team’s recommendation was to operate the vessels at 5 mph upstream and 6 mph downstream. The expected benefit was a 15-25 percent reduction in fuel usage. The recommendation was implemented in late 2015.


In 2016, the MPLX fleet realized a 20 percent reduction in gallons per mile, resulting in a savings of $2 million. The success of this project has inspired several new projects. Most recently, MPC conducted a similar study for ocean-going vessels, reducing speeds for the ocean-going fleet in the second half of 2016. The pilot program resulted in $0.5 million in savings, with an expected annual benefit of $1-2 million.