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SURVEY: US crude stocks likely fell 2 million barrels last week


US commercial crude stocks are expected to have fallen 2 million barrels for the reporting week ended August 29, according to a Platts analysis and survey of oil analysts Tuesday.

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The American Petroleum Institute will release its weekly report at 4:30 pm EDT (2030 GMT) Wednesday and the US Energy Information Administration is scheduled to release its weekly data at 11 am EDT (1500 GMT) Thursday.

Analysts expect US refinery utilization rates to come off by 0.7 percentage point to 92.8% following a slew of planned and unplanned outages last week. BP's 413,000 b/d Whiting, Indiana, refinery shut a hydrotreater following a fire on August 27, Platts data shows.

Additionally, ExxonMobil shut a fluid catalytic cracker at its 584,000 b/d Baytown, Texas, refinery last week. The unit is expected to be down for several weeks. Also in Texas, Phillips 66 extended the downtime for an FCC at its 146,000 b/d Borger refinery until September 10.

"The Whiting issue will have it's effect and we might see the runs slow down as we finish up summer," Oil Outlooks president Carl Larry said, adding that should refineries continue to pull back from record high runs, crude inventories would likely begin to pile up.

EIA data pegged US refinery runs at 16.54 million b/d for the reporting week ended August 22, down from a record-high 16.63 million b/d for the week ended July 11. But runs on the US Gulf Coast -- home to more than 50% of US operable refinery capacity -- showed little signs of abating, pushing to a record-high of 8.75 million b/d for the week ended August 22.

Larry, however, does not expect any rally in imports. EIA data pegged US imports at 7.63 million b/d for the week ended August 22, more than 740,000 b/d below year-ago levels.

USGC refining margins reflect slack demand for imported grades. Cracking margins for imported Nigerian Brass River and Angolan Cabinda are below $8/b on a 30-day moving average. By comparison, Louisiana Light Sweet margins are nearly double that. GASOLINE STOCKS LIKELY FELL

US gasoline stocks likely fell 1.6 million barrels last week, in line with the EIA five-year average. Distillate stocks are expected to have fallen as well, down 1.2 million barrels.

While analysts were on the fence about Labor Day-centered demand for gasoline, strong agricultural demand likely helped eat into US diesel stocks. Steady exports for both gasoline and diesel will have kept stockpiling to a minimum.

US gasoline stocks were pegged at 212.3 million barrels for the week ended August 22, EIA showed. This puts them nearly flat to the five-year average. But stocks on the US Atlantic Coast -- home to the New York Harbor-delivered NYMEX RBOB contract -- are not as tight. At 57.55 million barrels, USAC stocks are more than 3% above the five-year average. USGC gasoline stocks at 75.12 million barrels are just over 1% above the five-year average.

--James Bambino,
--Edited by Kevin Saville,