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Record September US petroleum demand supports strongest YTD level since 2007

U.S. petroleum demand in September was unfazed by geopolitics and trade tensions, reaching the highest level for any September on record and supporting year-to-date domestic demand to the strongest level since 2007, the American Petroleum Institute said.

In its Monthly Statistical Report released Oct. 18, the API said domestic petroleum demand, as measured by deliveries, was up 3.5% from September 2018, setting a record for the month at 20.8 million barrels per day. The gain helped drive year-to-date demand to an average of 20.5 million bbl/d, or 0.3% higher year on year, and at the strongest level since 2007.

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The API said the demand boost was supported by an increase in consumer gasoline demand measured by total motor gasoline deliveries. Consumer gasoline demand of 9.3 million bbl/d in September was down 5.0% from August but was up 1.3% from September 2018 amid a seasonal price decline.

Gasoline prices decreased to an average of $2.68 per gallon in September from an average of $2.71 per gallon in August.

Gasoline prices were lower despite a 3.9% month-on-month increase in the West Texas Intermediate crude oil price to $56.95 per barrel. Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran added a premium to global prices, the API said.

Year to date through September domestic gasoline demand decreased by 0.4% compared to the same period in 2018, the API said.

For the first time in 2019, the API noted in September a reversal in the predominant regional gasoline consumption growth pattern. Demand for reformulated gasoline consumed primarily in urban areas was up 7.4% year on year to 3.2 million bbl/d. Conversely, demand for conventional gasoline used mainly in rural areas decreased by 1.6% year on year to 6.1 million bbl/d.

Reaching their highest monthly level on record, refinery and petrochemical deliveries of other oils including liquid feedstocks, naphtha and gasoil, climbed 1.1% from August to 5.7 million bbl/d in September, further supporting the overall domestic petroleum demand boost.

Consumer sentiment remained solid in 2019, supporting the demand that was handily met by crude oil and natural gas liquids production gains.

Crude oil and natural gas liquids production reached record highs in September of 12.4 million bbl/d and 4.8 million bbl/d, respectively, the API said.

Record domestic production drove a decline in U.S. petroleum imports of 1.0 million bbl/d from August to September, their lowest level for the month since 1993.

U.S. petroleum exports, meanwhile, grew to 8.2 million bbl/d in September, from 8.1 million bbl/d in August.

Tempering the record domestic petroleum demand gains, leading economic indicators suggest weak industrial activity that supported a decline in distillate fuel oil deliveries to the lowest level for any September since 2013, the API said.

Distillate fuel oil deliveries of 3.9 million bbl/d were down 1.0% from August and 3.2% compared with the same month in 2018.

The API said ultra-low sulfur distillates made up nearly 98% of the September demand. Ultra-low sulfur distillates are mainly used in heavy-duty transportation, where deliveries were down 2.2% year on year in September.

The remaining 2.0% of the total distillate fuel oil demand was for high-sulfur distillate fuel oil, the API said. Deliveries of the fuel primarily used for heating and blending to upgrade heavy fuel oil for the marine sector, fell 41.5% year on year in September to 55,000 bbl/d.

For only the second time in nine months, kerosene jet fuel demand fell below its 2018 levels in September to 1.7 million bbl/d, down 1.9% compared with the same month in 2018 and 11.3% below August, the API said. The decline was the largest seasonal decrease in 18 years since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S.

The International Air Transport Association has yet to report September data, but in an Oct. 9 report, the agency suggested the trade war between the U.S. and China has weighed heavily on air cargo with trade volumes down 1% year on year in September.