Gulf Coast refineries processed a record-high amount of crude oil last week, at 9.649 million barrels daily, the Energy Information Administration said in its weekly petroleum status report. The national total was also very high, at 17.981 million bpd.
This summer has been very productive for U.S. refineries. The average capacity utilization rate at Gulf Coast refineries also hit a record, at 99.7 percent last week. What’s more, the four-week average crude oil throughput for all U.S. refineries passed the 18-million-bpd mark for the first time in history.
The data reflects strengthening demand for oil products both domestically and internationally, with an emphasis on gasoline and distillate, the EIA said, with domestic gasoline demand hitting an all-time high in early June and remaining robust through the next two months.
Exports of gasoline are also on the rise, with the figure for the second week of August at a daily average of 935,000 bpd, versus 670,000 bpd a year ago.
This year is seen as the second in a row when refineries will book record-high activity, which reflects the strengthening of the U.S. economy, with this driving season making a good case in point. There’s been a lot of driving this summer season, and that’s despite rising prices at the pump. These gained 31 percent between May 2017 and May 2018, but driving increased nevertheless, and it increased further during the summer months.
The increase in driving, according to a CNN report, was directly linked with the increase in refining activity in the past few months, which kept the supply of fuels robust and put a lid on prices at the pump. And refineries are refining more because their profit margin on gasoline, the most popular fuel, has improved substantially over the past 12 months. Margins on diesel have also risen, adding more incentive for refiners to go at full throttle and break records.
By Irina Slav from Oilprice.com
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