Crude oil inventories rose 4.6 million barrels in the September 15 week to 472.8 million, 0.2 percent below the level a year ago. Product inventories declined, with gasoline down by 2.1 million barrels to 216.2 million, 4.0 percent below last year at this time, and distillates down 5.7 million barrels to 138.9 million, off 15.8 percent from the year ago level. As in the prior two weeks, crude oil inventory builds and product declines were a result of Hurricane Harvey, which prompted Texas oil companies in the affected area to temporary close down their refinery operations. WTI prices fell about 20 cents to around $50.40 per barrel immediately following the release of the EIA report.
Refineries operated at 83.2 percent of their operating capacity, a 5.5 percentage-point increase from the prior week reflecting the still incomplete rebooting of Texas oil refineries. But gasoline production decreased to an average of 9.8 million barrels per day, while distillate production did rise to average 4.5 million barrels per day, up 500,000 barrels per day from the prior week.
Daily crude oil imports increased to an average of 7.4 million barrels, up 888,000 barrels from the prior week. Imports over the last 4 weeks averaged 7.2 million barrels per day, 10.9 percent less than in the same period last year.
The demand side was steady, with total product supplied over the last 4 weeks averaging 20.4 million barrels per day, up 0.5 percent from last year. Motor gasoline supplied fell to an average of 9.5 million barrels per day, down 0.2 percent from the same period last year, while distillate supplied averaged 4.1 million barrels per day, up a sharp 14.5 percent from the year ago level.
Crude oil inventories and their product counterparts are likely to exchange roles in the coming weeks as refineries gradually fire up to full operation and refine the accumulated crude supplies away.