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What happened 

Shares of Calumet Specialty Products Partners (NASDAQ:CLMT) declined 19.9% in October. While there was no specific news story from the company or the broader refining market that we can point to for this most recent decline, some general oil and gas market weakness coupled with the company's ongoing financial woes continued to weigh on the stock.

So what

The biggest challenge for Calumet to overcome today is the fact that it has been painted into a corner by its debt load. When the company reported earnings on Nov. 3, it showed that its interest expenses of $44 million were equivalent to 82% of its adjusted EBITDA for the quarter. With that kind of weight dragging down Calumet's results, it doesn't inspire a lot of investor confidence that things are getting better anytime soon. 

To make matters worse, the overall refining market hasn't exactly been kind to the company, either. Lower refining margins across the U.S. coupled with the higher costs to comply with the U.S. EPA's renewable fuels standards took a decent-sized bite out of all fuel-based refiners over the past several quarters. While Calumet's specialty petroleum product segment, the workhorse segment of the entire company, isn't as affected by what goes on in the broader refining market, the company has enough exposure to it to cause some headaches. 

Now what

Calumet's management has made some incremental steps toward putting the company on solid footing. It recently divested itself from a diesel refinery that was better at losing money than making diesel fuel, and it was able to raise prices on several of its specialty products that will help improve margins. That being said, it's going to take a lot more of these steps to fix Calumet's financials. Until we start to see some serious debt reduction and more consistent profitability, it's hard to make the case to invest in Calumet today.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.