Crude oil inventories rose by a smaller-than-expected 5.9 million barrels in the September 8 week to 468.2 million, 2.5 percent below their level a year ago. Product inventories fell sharply, with gasoline down 8.4 million barrels to 218.3 million, 4.4 percent below last year at this time, and distillates down 3.2 million barrels to 144.6 million, off 11.2 percent from the year ago level. Analysts had expected a larger build in crude inventories of around 10 million barrels, but smaller declines in the inventories of products. However, a report from the American Petroleum Institute, a private industry group, showed a crude oil build and product declines more in line with the EIA data. As in the prior week, the crude oil inventory build up and product declines were a result of Hurricane Harvey, which prompted Texas oil companies in the affected area to temporarily close down their refinery operations.
Refineries operated at 77.7 percent of their operating capacity, 2 percentage points below the prior week's level. But gasoline production rose to 9.9 million barrels per day, 400,000 barrels per day more than in the prior week. This came at the expense of distillate production, which fell to an average of 4.0 million barrels per day from 4.5 million.
Daily crude oil imports continued in their decline, falling by 603,000 barrels per day from the prior week to 6.5 million barrels per day, taking the 4-week average down to 7.6 million barrels per day, 7.4 percent below the level during the same period last year.
The demand side continued to soften gently, with total product supplied over the last 4 weeks averaging 20.4 million barrels per day, down 0.8 percent from last year at this time. Motor gasoline supplied was slightly higher, however, averaging 9.6 million barrels per day, 0.2 percent above the level in the year ago period. Distillate fuel supplied declined marginally to a still large 4.0 million barrels per day, up 10.4 percent from last year.
Crude oil inventories and their product counterparts are likely to exchange roles in the coming weeks as refineries gradually fire up again and refine the accumulated crude supplies away.