API: US gasoline demand dampened by higher prices in May

US gasoline deliveries fell 0.4% year-to-year to an average 9.05 million b/d last month—their lowest May level since 2003, the American Petroleum Institute said in its latest monthly statistical report.

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, June 18 -- US gasoline deliveries fell 0.4% year-to-year to an average 9.05 million b/d last month—their lowest May level since 2003, the American Petroleum Institute said in its latest monthly statistical report.

“This downward movement compared with year-on-year increases for both March and April…indicates that gasoline demand is more sensitive to higher prices and to the effects of the sluggish economic recovery than distillate and jet fuels, which both saw increased demand in May, compared with previous months,” said API Chief Economist John C. Felmy. He cited US Energy Information Administration figures showing the average national retail price for unleaded regular gasoline last month was 57¢/gal higher than in May 2009.

API, which uses deliveries to measure demand, said distillate fuel oil deliveries during May surged 7.8% year-to-year to an average 3.69 million b/d, supported by a 5.6% jump in ultralow-sulfur distillate deliveries to an average 2.93 million b/d.

“This was the second consecutive month that distillate deliveries showed upward movement on a year-to-year basis, following 29 months of declines since 2007,” it noted. “Even though May deliveries were up from last year, they averaged just 3.7 million b/d, which marked the second lowest May since 2003.”

Jet fuel deliveries, meanwhile, climbed 8% from May 2009 and 2.6% from April to an average 1.45 million b/d last month, partly due to airline travel demand during the Memorial Day holiday, it noted. Demand for jet fuel during 2010’s first 5 months averaged 1.4 million b/d, 1.6% more than for the comparable 2009 period, it said.

Meanwhile, API said the average US refinery utilization rate last month climbed above 86% for the first time this year, moving to its highest level since July 2009. Total motor gasoline production averaged 9.1 million b/d, the highest level for any May, and a continuation of gasoline production trends seen for all 5 months of this year. With the exception of May 2008 when distillate production stood at 4.5 million b/d, last month’s average 4.2 million b/d distillate production was the highest for any May, it added.

The average 5.48 million b/d of US oil production last month slipped by 28,000 b/d from April’s level but remained near a 5-year peak for the fifth consecutive month and was 3.1% higher than in May 2009, according to API. Texas and Wyoming registered the highest month-to-month increases, it said. Natural gas liquids production, which averaged 1.96 million b/d last month, was 1.1% higher than in April and 1.5% more than in May 2009, it said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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