US oil demand fell by 2.3% in February to average 18.4 million b/d compared with February 2011, according to the latest monthly statistical report from the American Petroleum Institute. The decline was led by a drop in demand for residual fuel oil, which was down 40% from a year earlier to 375,000 b/d as users switched to natural gas.
Deliveries of gasoline were up 0.9% to 8.7 million b/d, the first increase in gasoline demand since February 2011.
“Consumer demand for gasoline is still not strong, but the slight increase is notable,” said John Felmy, API chief economist. “It reflects recent improvements in employment growth,” he added.
Demand for distillate fuel, including diesel and heating oil, gained 0.6% from February 2011 to average 3.9 million b/d, while jet fuel demand was up 2% from a year earlier, averaging 1.37 million b/d.
Supplies of products remained ample, API said, with gasoline production of 9.1 million b/d setting a record high for February. Distillate production also set a monthly record.
Despite the recent announcements on declines in refinery capacity due to closures in the US Northeast, February’s total refinery inputs were higher than last year’s levels by 9.3%. And at 84.7%, refinery utilization rates last month were up from 70.6% in February 2011, API reported.
With refinery production at high levels and US demand falling, exports of petroleum products increased by 18.1%. Imports of crude oil and products fell in February by 0.7% to average 10.4 million b/d.
US crude oil production increased by 2.9% in February to average 5.8 million b/d, despite a decline in production in Alaska to 610,000 b/d from 611,000 b/d in February 2011.
At the end of February, commercial crude oil stocks were 345.8 million bbl, up 6.2% from a year earlier and 3% from January. Gasoline stocks were up 0.5% from January but down slightly from February 2011, API figures show.