The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported March 20 in its "Weekly Petroleum Status Report" that gasoline inventories declined for the fifth consecutive week as refinery runs edged higher in the week to March 15.
Total U.S. crude oil inputs climbed 1.1% on the week to 16.2 million barrels per day for a trailing four-week average of 15.9 million bbl/d, down 2.1% from the same period a year ago and 1.7% higher than the average seen during the previous five years. The EIA pegged U.S. refinery utilization at 88.9%, down from the year-ago level of 91.7% but up from the five-year average level of 88.5%, with PADDs 3, 4 and 5 seeing utilization at or above 90%.
The weak gasoline market has weighed on investor sentiment and even stressed a Philadelphia refinery that just emerged from bankruptcy, but refining executives suggested that the polar vortex that gripped much of the country earlier in the winter would lead to lower refinery runs and help ease the stockpile glut weighing on the gasoline market.
However, gasoline production remains above average. Finished motor gasoline production declined 1.3% from the prior week to bring the trailing four-week average to 9.9 million bbl/d, up 0.2% from the year-ago level and up 3.1% versus the five-year average.
Distillate production climbed 1.4% on the week, bringing the trailing four-week average to 4.8 million bbl/d, up 7.2% year over year and up 3.1% versus the five-year average.
U.S. crude oil inventories, excluding the strategic petroleum reserve, declined 9.6 million barrels from the week prior to 439.5 million barrels, while total gasoline inventories declined by 4.6 million barrels to 241.5 million barrels. Distillate inventories declined by 4.1 million barrels to 132.2 million barrels.