MARKET WATCH: NYMEX crude oil prices top $101/bbl as US reconsiders crude exports

Crude oil futures prices climbed by more than $1 to reach a May 13 settlement of more than $101/bbl for the June contract on the New York market after reports that the US government is contemplating lifting a ban on crude oil exports given robust oil production levels.

US Sec. of Energy Ernest Moniz said various federal agencies are studying a policy, implemented during the 1970s, that bans crude oil exports. His May 13 comments came during a conference he attended in Seoul.

For the week ended May 9, the Energy Information Administration estimated US commercial crude oil inventories, excluding the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, rose 900,000 bbl for the week ended May 9 compared with the previous week.

At 398.5 million bbl, crude oil inventories are above the average range for this time of year, EIA said in its weekly petroleum inventory report.

Ole Hansen, Saxo Bank director of commodity strategy, issued a May 13 research note saying that the futures price for US light, sweet crude has settled into a $99-105/bbl range since early February.

“A strong rise in US inventories has been offset by a sharp reduction in inventories at Cushing, the delivery hub for WTI crude futures traded in New York,” Hansen said. “As a result, the price remains well supported.”

Gasoline supplies decrease

Meanwhile, total US motor gasoline inventories decreased 800,000 bbl for the week ended May 9, which EIA described as being in the middle of the average range. Finished gasoline inventories increased while blending components inventories decreased last week.

Distillate fuel inventories decreased 1.1 million bbl and are below the lower limit of the average range for this time of year. Propane-propylene inventories rose 2.5 million bbl, which is the lower half of the average range.

US refinery inputs averaged 15.7 million b/d during the week ended May 9, which was 237,000 b/d less than the previous week’s average.

Refineries operated at 88.8% capacity last week. Gasoline production increased last week, averaging 9.6 million b/d. The production of distillate fuel decreased, averaging more than 4.9 million b/d.

US crude oil imports averaged more than 7.1 million b/d for the week ended May 9, up 242,000 b/d from the previous week. Over the last 4 weeks, crude oil imports averaged more than 7.3 million b/d, 5.4% below the same 4-week period last year.

Total motor gasoline imports, including both finished gasoline and gasoline blending components, last week averaged 877,000 b/d. Distillate imports averaged 100,000 b/d last week.

Energy prices

In trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange on May 13, the June crude oil contract price increased $1.11 closing at $101.70/bbl. The front-month settlement was the highest since Apr. 24. The July contract also climbed $1.11 to settle at $101.05/bbl.

The June natural gas contract lost 7.6¢ to a rounded $4.36/MMbtu.

Heating oil for June delivery gained 2.55¢ to a rounded $2.94/gal. Reformulated gasoline stock for oxygenate blending for June delivery rose a rounded 1.6¢ to a rounded $2.93/gal.

In London, the June ICE contract for Brent crude delivery increased 83¢, closing at $109.24 bbl. The settlement marked its highest since Apr. 25. The July contract gained 75¢ to settle at $108.54/bbl. The ICE gas oil contract for June was up $2.75 to $906/tonne.

The OPEC basket of 12 benchmark crudes on May 13 was $104.50/bbl, up 29¢.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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