MARKET WATCH: NYMEX crude oil, natural gas prices fall

Crude oil futures prices and natural gas prices fell on the New York market on Feb. 25 while analysts awaited a weekly government report that they correctly expected to show a sixth consecutive increase in US crude oil inventories.

The US Energy Information Administration said Feb. 26 that estimated crude oil inventories, excluding those in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, increased by 100,000 bbl from the previous week. At 362.4 million bbl, US crude oil inventories are in the upper half of the average range for this time of year, EIA said.

Crude oil supplies have built in recent weeks while product inventories declined, largely on heating demand stemming from a cold winter across parts of the US.

“Winter is not yet over, but sentiment shifted as it is close to winding down, but not before some late season cold blasts,” PIRA Energy Group said in a weekly market recap.

Gasoline inventories drop

Total motor gasoline inventories decreased by 2.8 million bbl for the week ended Feb. 21 compared with the week ended Feb. 14. Gasoline stocks are in the upper half of the average range, EIA said. Finished gasoline inventories decreased while blending components inventories remained unchanged.

Distillate fuel inventories increased by 300,000 bbl last week but still remain well below the lower limit of the average range for this time of year, EIA said. Propane-propylene inventories remained unchanged last week and hover below the lower limit of the average range.

Refinery inputs averaged 15.3 million b/d during the week ended Feb. 21, which was 121,000 b/d more than the previous week’s average. Refineries operated at 88% of capacity.

EIA said gasoline production decreased last week, averaging 8.7 million b/d. Distillate fuel production increased last week, averaging over 4.6 million b/d.

US crude oil imports averaged over 7 million b/d for the week ended Feb. 21, down by 384,000 b/d from the week ended Feb. 14.

Over the last 4 weeks, crude oil imports averaged over 7.3 million b/d, which EIA said was 4.7% below the same 4-week period last year. Total motor gasoline imports, including both finished gasoline and gasoline blending components, last week averaged 276,000 b/d. Distillate fuel imports averaged 315,000 b/d.

Energy prices

The New York Mercantile Exchange April crude contract fell 99¢ on Feb. 25 to close at $101.83/bbl. The May contract gave up 94¢ to settle at $101.12/bbl.

Heating oil for March delivery gained 1.7¢ to a rounded $3.10/gal. Reformulated gasoline stock for oxygenate blending for March delivery declined by 3.55¢ to a rounded $2.80/gal.

The March natural gas contract on NYMEX dipped by 34.9¢ to a rounded $5.10/MMbtu. On the US spot market, the gas price at Henry Hub, La. was $5.62/MMbtu, down 65.5¢.

In London, the April ICE contract for Brent crude delivery declined $1.13, closing at $109.51/bbl. The May contract dropped $1.17 to $109.03/bbl. The ICE gas oil contract for March declined $9 to $925.25/tonne.

The Organizational of Petroleum Exporting Countries reported its basket of 12 benchmark crudes was $106.55/bbl on Feb. 25, down 15¢.

Contact Paula Dittrick at

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