The Energy Information Administration delivered yet another blow to an already struggling industry by reporting a crude oil inventory build of 15 million barrels for the week to April 17.
This comes after a record-breaking 19.2-million-barrel build the EIA reported last week, and an API inventory build estimate of 13 million barrels, reported yesterday. Analysts expected the EIA to report an inventory build of a little over 16 million barrels.
U.S. refiners continued cutting their run rates last week, which led to yet another unprecedented occurrence: Chinese refiners, according to data from OilX, are currently processing more crude than their U.S. peers as China relaxes lockdowns.
In the U.S., EIA reported refinery runs of 12.5 percent for last week, compared with 12.7 million bpd a week earlier, with gasoline production at 6.2 million bpd and distillate fuel production at 5 million bpd.
This compares with gasoline production of 5.9 million bpd a week earlier, and distillate fuel production of 4.9 million bpd.
Gasoline inventories, the EIA said, rose by 1 million barrels in the week to April 17, after a week before they added 4.9 million barrels. Distillate fuel inventories added 7.9 million barrels, after the previous week they rose by 6.3 million barrels.
Despite plans by some states to start relaxing the lockdown and restart their economies, travel is still severely limited, affecting the run rates of refineries in the world’s largest fuel consumer. As GasBuddy reported this week, “For the eighth straight week and now 59 straight days, the national average price of gasoline has dropped, falling 5.0 cents over the last week to $1.78 per gallon.”
The gas price tracker said the loss in gasoline demand in the different states as a result of the lockdowns stood at between 55 and 70 percent.
Relaxing the lockdowns would eventually have a positive effect on gas demand but how long this effect will take to manifest and how strong it will be remains to be seen. For now, prices reflect a rather pessimistic view of the immediate future, with WTI trading at around $14 a barrel at the time of writing and Brent crude at $20.89 a barrel.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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