US crude oil inventories moved higher in the week ended Nov. 19 as a sharp decline in exports offset rising refinery demand, US Energy Information Administration data showed Nov. 24.
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Total commercial crude stocks climbed 1.02 million barrels to 434.02 million barrels in the week to Nov. 19, EIA said, leaving stockpiles around 7.2% behind the five-year average for this time of year.
The build was concentrated on the US West Coast, where stocks increased 3.05 million barrels to 50.6 million barrels - the highest since the week-ended March 5.
Midwest inventories climbed 1.31 million barrels to 110.8 million barrels, a six-week high. This build included a 790,000-barrel increase at the NYMEX delivery point of Cushing, Oklahoma. Cushing stocks have now moved higher for two consecutive weeks and stand at a four-week-high 27.39 million barrels; however stocks remain well below normal for the storage hub and are still more than 47% below the five-year average.
Front-month NYMEX January WTI settled 11 cents lower at $78.39/b and ICE January Brent declined 6 cents to $82.25/b.
A sharp decline in weekly exports contributed to the overall crude build. Outbound crude volumes fell 1.02 million b/d to 2.61 million b/d, a six-week low. Meanwhile, overall crude imports edged 4% higher to 6.44 million b/d.
Still, US Gulf Coast crude stocks fell 2.62 million barrels to 239.96 million barrels as regional refinery crude demand pushed to a 12-week-high 8.47 million b/d.
Nationwide refinery demand was up 1.6% on the week at 15.64 million b/d and overall utilization averaged 88.6% of capacity.
The seasonal return of refineries from turnaround has seen net crude inputs rise for three straight weeks, however the pace of this increase has failed to match that of previous years and has seen runs fall increasingly behind the five-year average. Last week refinery net crude inputs were nearly 4% below normal, the widest deficit since early September when multiple USGC refiners were still offline following Hurricane Ida.
Weak refinery margins may be partially responsible for this lackluster return of capacity from shoulder season doldrums. The US Gulf Coast WTI MEH cracking margin averaged $11.84/b in the week to Nov. 19, Platts Analytics shows, down from $12.37/b the week prior.
Total product supplied for all refined products, EIA's proxy for demand, edged 120,000 b/d higher to 21.75 million b/d, a five-week high and nearly 9% above the five-year average for this time of year.
Product stocks lower on strong demand
Demand was higher across all major refined products. Gasoline and distillate consumption each moved around 1% higher on the week to 9.33 million b/d and 4.39 million b/d, respectively. Distillate demand moved to the highest since the week ended Sept. 17 and was more than 8% above the five-year average. Likewise, implied gasoline demand was 3.4% above normal, notching a ninth straight week of above average demand.
Strong consumer appetite for gasoline and distillates contributed to counter-seasonal draws in both products.
Nationwide gasoline stocks drew down 600,000 barrels to 211.39 million barrels, falling 5.2% behind average, while total distillate stocks fell 1.97 million barrels to 121.72 million barrels.
US Atlantic gasoline stocks saw their first decline in three weeks, falling 20,000 barrels to 53.82 million barrels. The counter-seasonal draw left storage levels 9.2% behind average, snapping a three week trend of normalizing inventories.