MARKET WATCH: NYMEX crude oil futures settle lowest since July 30

Crude oil prices fell Sept. 24 with the November contract for light, sweet crude settling at $103.13/bbl, which marked an 8-week low on the New York Mercantile Exchange amid diplomatic maneuvering at the United Nations where Iran seeks improved relations with the West.

US Sec. of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif were scheduled to meet with representatives of other major countries on Sept. 26.

The US Energy Information Administration’s issued a “Today in Energy” brief showing a decline in natural gas-fired electric generation this year.

“Total natural gas use for power generation in the United States was down 14% during the first 7 months of 2013 compared to the same period in 2012, mostly because of higher natural gas prices relative to coal prices,” EIA’s Sept. 25 “Today in Energy” said.

“High natural gas-fired generation in 2012 occurred as a result of the lowest spot natural gas prices in a decade—in fact, the two fuels contributed approximately equal shares of total generation in April 2012. Despite lower gas use for generation thus far in 2013, natural-gas generation remains consistently higher than levels before 2012,” EIA said.

In its weekly inventory statistics released Sept. 25, EIA reported a gain in crude oil and gasoline inventories, which surprised analysts and traders who forecast declines. Meanwhile, analysts anticipate refinery maintenance that will reduce operations, cutting future fuel products inventories.

US crude oil stockpile climbs

EIA reported US commercial crude oil inventories (excluding those in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve) increased by 2.6 million bbl for the week ended Sept. 20 compared with the previous week.

At 358.3 million bbl, crude oil inventories are toward the upper range for this time of year, EIA said. Total motor gasoline inventories increased by 200,000 bbl and are in the upper half of the average range.

Distillate fuel inventories decreased by 200,000 bbl and remain near the lower limit of the average range for this time of year, EIA said. Propane-propylene inventories increased by 1 bbl and are in the middle of the average range.

US refinery inputs averaged about 15.6 million b/d during the week ending Sept. 20, roughly 500,000 b/d lower than the previous week’s average. Refineries operated at 90.3% of capacity, EIA said.

Gasoline production fell from the previous week, averaging 9 million b/d while distillate fuel production dropped to about 4.8 million b/d.

US crude oil imports averaged about 7.9 million b/d, up by 346,000 b/d from the previous week. Over the last 4 weeks, crude oil imports averaged over 7.9 million b/d. Total motor gasoline imports (including both finished gasoline and gasoline blending components) for the week ended Sept. 20 averaged 460,000 b/d. Distillate fuel imports averaged 137,000 b/d.

Energy prices

The NYMEX November contract for benchmark US light, sweet crudes dropped 46¢ on Sept. 24, settling at $103.13/bbl. Over four trading sessions ending with Sept, 24, the contract has declined by $4.15/bbl. The December crude contract fell 24¢ to settle at $102.48/bbl.

Heating oil for October delivery gained 0.48¢ to $2.96/gal on NYMEX. Reformulated gasoline stock for oxygenate blending for October rose by 3.6¢ to a rounded $2.66/gal.

The October natural gas contract was down 11¢ to a rounded $3.49/MMbtu on NYMEX. On the US spot market, the gas price at Henry Hub, La., was a rounded $3.58/MMbtu, a 7.2¢ decrease.

In London, the November IPE contract for North Sea Brent crude gained 48¢ to $108.64/bbl. The October contract for gas oil settled down $7 to $906/tonne.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries reported its basket of 12 benchmark crudes fell 76¢ to $105.76/bbl on Sept. 24.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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