API: US petroleum demand slipped in September

Nov. 7, 2022

US petroleum demand, as measured by total domestic petroleum deliveries, was 20 million b/d in September, according to the latest monthly statistical report by the American Petroleum Institute (API). This reflected a seasonal decrease of 1.2% from August and was 0.9% below the year-ago level. The 20 million b/d was also 1.4% less than that of September 2019, which was the top of the 5-year range.

Consumer gasoline demand, measured by motor gasoline deliveries, was 8.8 million b/d in September. This reflected decreases of 0.2% from August and 1.2% compared with September 2021. With the conclusion of the summer driving season, motor gasoline consumption typically decreases between August and September. The 0.2% m/m decrease in September 2022 was the strongest (non-pandemic) monthly change seen in September since 1982. Deliveries of reformulated-type gasoline (consumed primarily in urban areas) rose by 6.3% y/y to 3 million b/d, while those of conventional gasoline (consumed mainly in rural areas) decreased by 4.6% y/y to 5.8 million b/d. Comparatively, the relative increase in urban commuting was consistent with more driving likely having been related to essential commuting, API said.

Distillate deliveries of 3.8 million b/d decreased by 2.2% m/m from August and was also down by 8.1% y/y compared with September 2021.

Kerosene-type jet fuel deliveries of 1.5 million b/d in September fell seasonally by 7.3% m/m from August but were up by 2.7% y/y versus September 2021 to their highest for the month since 2019. High-frequency data from Flightradar24 and TSA showed that the total numbers of flights and air passengers increased by 6% y/y and 23.1% y/y, respectively. The International Air Transport Association also reported passenger demand remained strong this summer and that air cargo has been resilient. As noted last month, some of the slowing seen in freight trucking could have reflected a substitution for freight by air. The recovery of air travel from the pandemic is ongoing, but September notably was the seventh straight month of jet fuel demand over 1.5 million b/d – the strongest since the pandemic.

Deliveries of residual fuel oil, which is used as a marine bunker fuel and internationally in electric power production, space heating, and industrial applications, were 400,000 b/d in September, which reflected increases of 2.9% m/m from August and of 5.3% y/y versus September 2021. The solid demand for residual fuel confounds reports that marine freight has dropped.

US oil, gas production

US crude oil production of 11.9 million b/d in September decreased by 0.2% from August but was up by 8.9% compared with September 2021. This reflected the second highest production for the month of September on record since 1973 but remained 1.1 million b/d below the highest US crude oil production, which reached 13 million b/d in November 2019. Baker Hughes reported 599 active oil-directed rigs in September, a 0.3% (2 rig) decrease from August and remained 17.3% lower than the 724 rigs that ran in September 2019.

Natural gas-directed drilling of 162 rigs in September rose from August by two rigs. NGL production decreased by 0.9% m/m to 6 million b/d, still its highest level on record for September since 1920.

Trade, refining, inventory

US petroleum exports—crude oil (3.9 million b/d) and refined products (6.5 million b/d)—of 10.4 million b/d for September were the highest on record for any month since 1947. Exports increased by 33.4% y/y, while imports fell by 4.9% y/y. Consequently, the US was a petroleum net exporter of 1.9 million b/d in September, which also was a record high for monthly petroleum net exports on record since 1947.

Refining throughput and capacity utilization rates remained strong. In September, US refinery throughput, measured by gross inputs into crude distillation units, was 16.4 million b/d and implied a capacity utilization rate of 91.6%. The throughput decreased by 1.6% m/m but remained over 16 million b/d for a seventh straight month.

US commercial crude oil inventories increased by 14.4 million bbl (3.4% m/m) from August and were up by 11.5 million bbl (2.7% y/y) versus September 2021 to 431.8 million bbl. By contrast, crude oil in the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) fell by 28.7 million bbl (9.2% m/m) to its lowest level since 1984 and continued to fall through mid-October. Consequently, the combined commercial and SPR crude oil inventories of 856 million bbl were at their lowest level since 2003.