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Independent refiner, transporter and marketer firm Marathon Petroleum Corporation (MPC - Analyst Report) along with partner Harvest Pipeline Company announced plans to set up a truck-to-barge system on the Ohio River. In this regard, both the companies signed a letter of intent (LOI) on September 27, without disclosing any of the financial details.

This newly constructed facility will be utilized for the transportation of oil and natural gas liquids produced in the Utica shale oil play to refineries. Marathon stated that the project will have trucks with daily capacity to transport about 24,000 barrels and a terminal that can load up to 50,000 barrels of oil daily.

For this project, Marathon will have to upgrade its existing Wellsville river terminal and built a new truck rack. The venture is expected to be completed by the end of 2013.

With two of Marathon’s refineries on top of the Utica shale formation in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania, management highlighted that the company is working toward bringing in more liquids from the region.

Early this year, Marathon invested in constructing a new truck rack of 12,000 barrels per day (bpd) capacity at Canton refinery, Ohio. The capacity of the rack can be further expanded up to 24,000 bpd.

Findlay, Ohio-based Marathon Petroleum came into existence following the 2011 spin-off of Houston, Texas-based Marathon Oil Corporation's (MRO - Analyst Report) refining/sales business into a separate, independent and publicly traded entity. Marathon Petroleum operates in three segments: Refining and Marketing, Speedway (Retail) and Pipeline Transportation.

Marathon Petroleum currently retains a Zacks #2 Rank, which implies a short-term Buy rating. We also have a long-term Outperform recommendation on the stock.

We like Marathon Petroleum’s strong six-plant refining portfolio and its diversification into retail/midstream business lines, which make the stock potentially more stable. Additionally, the company possesses one of the healthiest balance sheets among peers and a robust free cash flow generating ability.

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