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Analysis: US crude stocks surge as record production, rising imports swamps Gulf Coast storage


Commercial crude stocks up 9.93 million barrels at 470.57 million barrels

Imports notch 10-week high at 7.41 million b/d

Refinery utilization falls below 90% on Midwest turnarounds

New York — US crude stocks moved sharply higher last week as rising production and stepped-up imports outpaced turnaround-hampered refinery demand, US Energy Information Administration data showed Wednesday.

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Commercial crude stocks grew 9.93 million barrels to 470.57 million barrels during the week ended April 26, according to EIA data. Inventories have held within 1% of the five-year average since late March but last week's build pushed them more than 2.2% above this level, opening the widest surplus since the week-ended March 1.

The bulk of the crude build was realized on the US Gulf Coast, where inventories surged 9.17 million barrels to 244.6 million barrels, the highest since September 2017. US Atlantic Coast inventories, in contrast, fell 624,000 barrels to 14.4 million barrels. Notably stocks in Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery point of the NYMEX crude contract, were up just 265,000 barrels last week at 45.12 million barrels.

The build was due in large part to strong production, which edged up 100,000 b/d to a fresh all-time high 12.3 million b/d last week, as well as continued growth in imports, which were up 265,000 b/d at a 10-week high 7.41 million b/d.

Imports of Iraqi crude jumped to 551,000 b/d last week, a 10-week high and 80% above week-ago levels, while inflows of Colombian crude were up 21% at 589,000 b/d, the highest since March 2018, EIA data showed. Canadian imports edged 1.9% lower to 3.6 million b/d, but looking at the four-week moving average they were still the strongest since notching an all-time high during the second half of January.

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Exports slipped 70,000 b/d lower to 2.61 million b/d. The US is now exporting roughly 1 million b/d less than mid-February, when outflows notched an all-time high 3.61 million b/d. During this period the discount for NYMEX WTI to ICE Brent crude, a rough indicator of the competitiveness of US crude abroad, narrowed considerably from a recent high of over $10/b in mid-February to $8.60/b last week. While still in from February highs, the Brent/WTI spread has been widening in recent weeks, and last week was around 80 cents/b stronger than the April average of $7.76/b.

Nationwide refinery run rates were also weaker last week, with utilization falling 0.9 percentage point to 89.2% of total capacity. The decline snapped three consecutive weeks of firming run rates and leaves utilization 2.3% below the five-year average. Notably, net crude inputs, while 137,000 b/d weaker at 16.45 million b/d last week, were still 0.6% above the five-year average.

Around 2.7 million b/d of crude distillation capacity was expected to be offline last week for planned maintenance, accord to S&P Global Platts analytics data, an increase of around 140,000 b/d from the week prior.

The bulk of increase in turnaround work last week was in the Midwest, where approximately 481,000 b/d of crude distillation capacity -- 11.6% of the region's total -- was slated to be offline last week.

Midwest and USGC refinery utilization slipped 5.9 and 1 percentage points to 85.9% and 91.9% of capacity, respectively, while USAC run rates were up 4.9 points at 92.5% of capacity -- a 15-week high.

Gasoline inventories added 917,000 barrels to storage last week, bringing stocks to 226.74 million barrels. But the build failed to reverse a tightening trend that has persisted since mid-January and the deficit to the five-year average widened to 2.27% from 2.23% during the week prior.

Gasoline inventories continued to fall behind historic levels across major demand centers. USAC gasoline stocks were down 556,000 barrels at 59.51 million barrels, dropping 5.83% below the five-year average, while a 178,000 barrel-build in the Midwest left stocks 5.85% under the average at 50.75 million barrels.

Distillate fuel oil stocks, in contrast, fell 6.16% below the five-year average after drawing 1.31 million barrels to 125.72 million barrels last week. A 1.39 million-barrel draw in West Coast distillate stocks comprised nearly all of the nationwide decline, and left inventories there down more than 10% from the week prior at 12.29 million barrels.

-- Chris van Moessner,

-- Edited by Richard Rubin,