API says oil, product imports set record in first quarter

The American Petroleum Institute said US crude and products imports were a record 11.6 million b/d in the first quarter, 12% higher than a year ago and equal to 59% of petroleum deliveries. It said crude oil was more than half of the increased exports.

By the OGJ Online Staff

WASHINGTON, DC, Apr. 18 -- US crude and products imports set a record in the first quarter, the American Petroleum Institute said Wednesday.

It said imports were 11.6 million b/d for the quarter, 12% higher than year-ago levels and equal to 59% of domestic petroleum deliveries.

More than half the year-to-year, 1.3 million b/d increase in imports was in the form of crude oil, helping to build those stocks to their highest month-end level since the summer of 1999. Product imports were also unusually strong.

API said refinery activity slowed seasonally from the fourth quarter's high rates as many refiners performed maintenance in advance of the summer driving season. Still, refinery inputs for the first quarter topped year-ago levels by more than 3%.

Meanwhile, continued strong growth for distillate fuel oil (which includes highway diesel, home heating oil, and other fuels) helped to push the increase in petroleum deliveries for the first quarter to 2.9%. Deliveries of distillate fuel oil jumped nearly 9% compared with the first quarter of last year.

API said the increase in petroleum deliveries was aided by higher natural gas prices, which have continued to drive industrial and utility users with fuel-switching capability to residual fuel oil. As a result, resid deliveries for the first quarter jumped 40% compared with a year earlier.

"Gasoline deliveries also showed some very tentative signs of revival from last year's flat performance, though March's increase by itself was not much more than half a percent compared with 1 year earlier," API said.

It predicted the first quarter's increase in total deliveries will shrink, once the Energy Information Administration revises first quarter data for 2000. API said this year's first quarter's 2.9% increase, for example, would shrink to less than 2%, based on potential revisions.

"While crude oil inventories reached highs not experienced in the past year or two, gasoline inventories ended the quarter at 192.3 million bbl, their lowest level since October and a recent-year low for March. Despite remarkably strong distillate deliveries growth, high refinery production over the winter and increased imports left inventories of that product above year-ago levels."

Domestic crude oil production rose 1% in the first quarter, the first such increase in 3 years. A nearly 3% decline in Alaskan production was more than offset by an increase in the Lower 48.

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