U.S. crude stockpiles fall sharply in week prior to snow storms -EIA
U.S. crude oil stockpiles fell sharply to their lowest since March as exports jumped in the week before a deadly cold snap hit major energy-producing areas of the United States, the Energy Information Administration said on Thursday.
Crude inventories fell by 7.3 million barrels in the week to Feb. 12, compared with analysts’ expectations for a decrease of 2.4 million barrels. At 461.8 million barrels, stocks nationwide are the lowest since March.
The decline was driven by a sharp decline at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub for U.S. crude futures, where inventories fell by 3 million barrels to about 45 million barrels, also their lowest since March, EIA said.
The data covers a period that ended Friday, so just before blistering cold and snow hit most of Texas, New Mexico and other big energy producing areas, shuttering millions of barrels of production and refining output.
Next week’s release is likely to show the effects of the storms and just how extensive the shut-ins were. Depending on the extent of damage, production could be impaired for several weeks in major shale regions like the Permian Basin in Texas and New Mexico.
“I think crude inventories overall will build significantly because barrels are being backed up in the system and seeing low demand from the refiners,” said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital in New York.
In the week, crude production dipped to 10.8 million barrels per day from 11 million bpd. Weekly output figures are volatile and subject to adjustments from the EIA, but analysts expect that figure to fall sharply next week.
Net U.S. crude imports fell last week by 1.2 million bpd. Overall imports were steady, but exports rose dramatically to 3.9 million bpd, their highest since March. In the most recent week, however, the Houston ship channel has been closed, so both imports and exports are likely to fall.
Refiner utilization inched up 0.1 percentage point but at 83.1%, it was at its highest since March.
Gasoline stocks rose by 672,000 barrels, compared with analysts’ expectations in a Reuters poll for a 1.4 million-barrel gain.
Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 3.4 million barrels, versus expectations for a 1.6 million-barrel drop, the EIA data showed.
Oil prices were little changed after the data. U.S. crude futures were up 12 cents to $61.26 a barrel while Brent rose 9 cents to $64.43 a barrel as of 11:44 a.m. EST (1644 GMT).
Source: Reuters (Reporting By David Gaffen; Editing by Marguerita Choy)