US oil supplies at a 13½ year low; gasoline exports at a 39 mo high; total oil + products supplies at a 95 mo low

The Latest US Oil Supply and Disposition Data from the EIA

US oil data from the US Energy Information Administration for the week ending March 18th indicated that after a second straight big increase in our oil exports, we had to pull oil out of our stored commercial crude supplies for the twelfth time in 17 weeks and for the 28th time in the past forty-two weeks, despite another big increase to oil supply that could not be accounted for. Our imports of crude oil rose by an average of 92,000 barrels per day to an average of 6,486,000 barrels per day, after rising by an average of 76,000 barrels per day during the prior week, while our exports of crude oil rose by an average of 908,000 barrels per day to an 8 month high of 3,844,000 barrels per day during the week, after our exports had risen 514,000 barrels per day the prior week..Applying our oil exports to offset our oil supplies coming from imports, that meant that our effective trade in oil worked out to a net import average of 2,642,000 barrels of per day during the week ending March 18th, 816,000 fewer barrels per day than the net of our imports minus our exports during the prior week. Over the same period, production of crude oil from US wells was reportedly unchanged at 11,600,000 barrels per day, and hence our daily supply of oil from the net of our international trade in oil and from domestic well production appears to have totaled an average of 14,242,000 barrels per day during the cited reporting week…

Meanwhile, US oil refineries reported they were processing an average of 15,878,000 barrels of crude per day during the week ending March 18th, an average of 276,000 more barrels per day than the amount of oil than our refineries processed during the prior week, while over the same period the EIA’s surveys indicated that a net of 957,000 barrels of oil per day were being pulled out of the supplies of oil stored in the US.  So based on that reported & estimated data, this week’s crude oil figures from the EIA appear to indicate that our total working supply of oil from storage, from net imports and from oilfield production was 678,000 barrels per day less than what our oil refineries reported they used during the week. To account for that disparity between the apparent supply of oil and the apparent disposition of it, the EIA just inserted a (+678,000) barrel per day figure onto line 13 of the weekly U.S. Petroleum Balance Sheet in order to make the reported data for the daily supply of oil and for the consumption of it balance out, essentially a balance sheet fudge factor that they label in their footnotes as “unaccounted for crude oil”, thus suggesting there must have been a error or omission of that magnitude in this week’s oil supply & demand figures that we have just transcribed.  However, since most everyone treats these weekly EIA reports as gospel and since these figures often drive oil pricing, and hence decisions to drill or complete oil wells, we’ll continue to report this data just as it's published, and just as it's watched & believed to be reasonably accurate by most everyone in the industry...(for more on how this weekly oil data is gathered, and the possible reasons for that “unaccounted for” oil, see this EIA explainer)….

This week's 957,000 barrel per day decrease in our overall crude oil inventories left our total oil supplies at 984,722,000 barrels at the end of the week, the lowest since September 26th, 2008, or virtually a 13 1/2 year low (see graph below).  This week's oil inventory decrease came as 358,000 barrels per day were being pulled our commercially available stocks of crude oil, while 599,000 barrels per day of oil were being pulled out of our Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which appears to include the first withdrawal under the recently announced 30,000,000 million barrel release from the SPR to address Russian related shortfalls, as well as an ongoing withdrawal under the administration's earlier plan to release 50 million barrels from the SPR to incentivize US gasoline consumption.  Including other withdrawals from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve under similar recent programs, a total of 84,824,000 barrels have now been removed from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve over the past 20 months, and as a result the 571,323,000 barrels of oil remaining in our Strategic Petroleum Reserve is now the lowest since May 31st, 2002, or at a new 19 1/2 year low, as repeated tapping of our emergency supplies for non-emergencies has already drained those supplies considerably over the past dozen years. Based on an estimated average daily oil consumption of 18,000,000 barrels per day, the US will have roughly 28 1/2 days of oil supply left in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve after the current SPR withdrawal programs have run their course...

Further details from the weekly Petroleum Status Report (pdf) indicate that the 4 week average of our oil imports slipped to an average of 6,242,000 barrels per day last week, which was still 9.1% more than the 5,723,000 barrel per day average that we were importing over the same four-week period last year. This week’s crude oil production was reported to be unchanged at 11,600,000 barrels per day as the EIA's rounded estimate of the output from wells in the lower 48 states was unchanged at 11,200,000 barrels per day, while Alaska’s oil production fell by 10,000 barrels per day to 431,000 barrels per day but had no impact on the rounded national total.  US crude oil production had reached a pre-pandemic high of 13,100,000 barrels per day during the week ending March 13th 2020, so this week’s reported oil production figure was 11.5% below that of our pre-pandemic production peak, but 37.6% above the interim low of 8,428,000 barrels per day that US oil production had fallen to during the last week of June of 2016...

US oil refineries were operating at 91.1% of their capacity while using those 15,878,000 barrels of crude per day during the week ending March 18th, up from a utilization rate of 90.4% the prior week, and ia bit higher than the historical utilization rate for mid March refinery operations, when the need for seasonal maintenance typically causes rotating shutdowns.  The 15,878,000 barrels per day of oil that were refined this week were 10.3% more barrels than the 14,389,000 barrels of crude that were being processed daily during week ending March 19th of 2021, when refineries were still recovering from winter storm Uri, and fractionally more than the 15,838,000 barrels of crude that were being processed daily during the week ending March 20th, 2020, when US refineries were operating at what was then a lower than normal 87.3% of capacity at the onset of the pandemic...

With the increase in the amount of oil being refined this week, gasoline output from our refineries was also higher, increasing by 424,000 barrels per day to 9,804,000 barrels per day during the week ending March 18th, after our gasoline output had decreased by 197,000 barrels per day over the prior week. This week’s gasoline production was 14.3% more than the 8,577,000 barrels of gasoline that were being produced daily over the same week of last year, but 1.7% less than the gasoline production of 9,974,000 barrels per day during the week ending March 13th, 2020, after which gasoline production began to fall in response to the onset of pandemic impacts.  Meanwhile, our refineries’ production of distillate fuels (diesel fuel and heat oil) increased by 24,000 barrels per day to 4,979,000 barrels per day, after our distillates output had increased by 305,000 barrels per day over the prior week.  With those increases, our distillates output was 8.2% more than the 4,601,000 barrels of distillates that were being produced daily during the storm impacted week ending March 19th of 2021, and 2.1% more than the 4,838,000 barrels of distillates that were being produced daily during the week ending March 20th, 2020...

Even with the big increase in our gasoline production, our supplies of gasoline in storage at the end of the week fell for the seventh consecutive week, decreasing by 2,948,000 barrels to 238,043,000 barrels during the week ending March 18th, after our gasoline inventories had decreased by 3,615,000 barrels over the prior week..Our gasoline supplies decreased again this week even though the amount of gasoline supplied to US users decreased by 307,000 barrels per day to 8,637,000 barrels per day, and even as our imports of gasoline rose by 190,000 barrels per day to 721,000 barrels per day, because our exports of gasoline rose by 378,000 barrels per day to a 39 month high of 1,058,000 barrels per day. But even after 7 straight inventory drawdowns, our gasoline supplies were still 2.5% higher than last March 19th's gasoline inventories of 232,297,000 barrels, when shortages in the wake of Winter Storm Uri had resulted in back to back record draws, while they're slightly below the five year average of our gasoline supplies for this time of the year…

With this week's modest increase in our distillates production, our supplies of distillate fuels decreased for the ninth time in ten weeks and for the 21st time in twenty-nine weeks, falling by 2,071,000 barrels to a 95 month low of 112,135,000 barrels during the week ending March 18th, after our distillates supplies had increased by 332,000 barrels during the prior week. Our distillates supplies fell this week because the amount of distillates supplied to US markets, an indicator of our domestic demand, jumped by 812,000 barrels per day to 4,516,000 barrels per day, and because our imports of distillates fell by 50,000 barrels per day to 172,000 barrels per day, while our exports of distillates fell by 484,000 barrels per day to 931,000 barrels per day..After thirty-five inventory decreases over the past fifty weeks, our distillate supplies at the end of the week were 20.8% below the 137,747,000 barrels of distillates that we had in storage on March 19th of 2021, and about 17% below the five year average of distillates inventories for this time of the year…

Meanwhile, after the big jump in our oil exports, our commercial supplies of crude oil in storage fell for the 21st time in 33 weeks and for the 36th time in the past year, decreasing by 2,5008,000 barrels over the week, from 415,907,000 barrels on March 11th to 413,399,000 barrels on March 18th, after our commercial crude supplies had increased by 4,345,000 barrels over the prior week.  With this week’s decrease, our commercial crude oil inventories slipped to roughly 13% below the most recent five-year average of crude oil supplies for this time of year, but were still 29.4%% above the average of our crude oil stocks as of the third weekend of March over the 5 years at the beginning of the past decade, with the disparity between those comparisons arising because it wasn’t until early 2015 that our oil inventories first topped 400 million barrels..Since our crude oil inventories had jumped to record highs during the Covid lockdowns of spring 2020 and jumped again after last year's winter storm Uri froze off Gulf Coast refining, our commercial crude oil supplies as of this March 11th were 17.8% less than the 502,711,000 barrels of oil we had in commercial storage on March 19th of 2021, and were also 9.2% less than the 455,360,000 barrels of oil that we had in storage on March 20th of 2020, and 6.5% less than the 442,283,000 barrels of oil we had in commercial storage on March 22nd of 2019…

Finally, with our inventory of crude oil and our supplies of all products made from oil remaining near multi year lows, we are continuing to keep track of the total of all U.S. Stocks of Crude Oil and Petroleum Products, including those in the SPR.  The EIA's data shows that the total of our oil and oil product inventories, including those in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and those held by the oil industry, and thus including everything from gasoline and jet fuel to propane/propylene and residual fuel oil, fell by 10,889,000 barrels this week, from 1,719,027,000 barrels on March 11th to 1,708,138,000 barrels on March 18th, after our total supply had decreased by 5,567,000 barrels over the prior week, and are now down by 80,295,000 barrels so far this year..  That left our total supplies of oil & its products at the lowest LEVEL since April 4th, 2014, or at a new 95 month low, after this week's across the board drawdown in crude and product inventories..

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note: the above was excerpted from my weekly blog post at Focus on Fracking

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