API: US gasoline demand, production break February records

US gasoline demand and production broke records for a February last month, the American Petroleum Institute said in its latest monthly statistical report.

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Mar. 17 -- US gasoline demand and production broke records for a February last month, the American Petroleum Institute said in its latest monthly statistical report. Motor gasoline deliveries, which API uses to measure demand, increased 2.2% year-to-year to an average 9 million b/d, while finished gasoline production rose 0.4% to 8.8 million b/d, it said on Mar. 17.

“These numbers clearly show that the refining industry is making the gasoline consumers are demanding, and making it at record levels,” said API Chief Economist John C. Felmy. “Production is keeping pace with demand, which appears driven in part by some brightness in the economic picture, even as imports fall.”

The refinery utilization capacity rate rose above 80% for the first time in 3 months to 80.1%, 218,000 b/d less than February 2009’s 81.5% average, API said. “The refining sector’s utilization rate in February 2010 was 11.1 percentage points higher than for the average for all manufacturing, which increased to 69%,” it noted. “This was also higher than the average for total industry capacity utilization by 7.4% for the month of February.”

Economic growth is stronger than forecast, the US Energy Information Administration noted Mar. 9 in its latest short-term energy outlook. US real gross domestic product is growing by 2.8% and world oil consumption-weighted GDP is growing by 3.4%, compared with 2.3% and 2.7%, respectively, in its February STEO, it said.

The more optimistic global economic growth outlook for 2010 led EIA to raise its oil consumption growth to 1.5 million b/d from 1.2 million b/d the previous month. “This increased growth in 2010 consumption supports a firming of crude oil prices at above $80/bbl this summer and accommodates a further drawdown of commercial inventories,” it said.

Ample capacity
Noting that it has also reduced its projections for surplus production capacity within the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, EIA said that surplus capacity within the cartel remains ample, “dampening the likelihood of a large upward swing in prices.”

API said US crude oil production reached an average 5.5 million b/d during February—its highest level since June 2005 and 3.6% higher than in February 2009. Production in the Lower 48 states climbed 5.5% year-to-year to 4.8 million b/d, while output in Alaska grew 0.3% to 681,000 b/d, it indicated.

It cited Baker Hughes Inc. statistics showing the average daily US rig count in February jumped 6.6% from January and 2.3% from February 2009. “Among the Lower 48 states, North Dakota garnered the bulk of the oil rig increases, with the State Department of Mineral Resources reporting that rig counts in the state top 100 for the first time in three decades—102 rigs in February 2010, the highest level since October 1981.”

US crude inventories finished February higher for a second consecutive month and were, at 339.9 million bbl, 1.9% higher than at the end of January, according to API. “Still, February crude inventories continue to be about 42% lower than the same month a year ago,” it said.

Ultralow-sulfur diesel inventories at the end of February dropped 5% from the end of January but were 7.3% higher than on Feb. 28, 2009. Total distillate stocks were their highest for any February since 1981, reflecting continued sluggish US demand as total distillate deliveries fell 6% from February 2009’s average to an average 3.7 million b/d, API said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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